Technology plays greater role in relationships

With the Internet and texting, you may think your sweetie is even sweeter

Have you ever had a text fight with your spouse? Feel like Facebook and smartphones are helping your relationship?

Technology is becoming a greater role in romantic relationships, according to a report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The study was based on telephone interviews with 2,252 U.S. adults conducted between April 17 and May 19, 2013.

"Couples use technology in the little and large moments," Pew report stated. "They negotiate over when to use it and when to abstain. A portion of them quarrel over its use and have had hurtful experiences caused by tech use. At the same time, some couples find that digital tools facilitate communication and support."

While 10% of Internet users who are married or partnered say the Internet has had a "major impact" on their relationship, a larger 72% say it's had no impact on their relationship, and 17% said it's had a minor impact.

While people may complain about their significant other's texting during dinner or date night, the Pew study showed that of those who said the Internet has had a major impact on their relationships, 74% of them said it was a positive impact.

Only 20% said the impact was mostly negative and 4% said it had both positive and negative effects.

"I think tech is mostly helpful to relationships," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "It gives people the ability to communicate in more and different ways. Text messages make it easy to toss out those quick 'I'm thinking about you" or 'I'm thinking about you, and I'm still mad about last night' messages. Communication isn't only about good things, right?"

Olds said he's not surprised that more people didn't complain about technology getting in the way of their relationships or at least irritating them.

"I think the reason tech isn't more of a problem in relationships is because tech-centric and tech-phobic folks probably tend to clump together over time," said Olds. "And maybe both partners are guilty of bad tech behavior?"

And couples also noted how they use technology in their relationship.

For example, 25% said they have texted their partner when they were home together, while another 21% said they felt closer to their partner because of exchanges they have online or via text message. The study also noted that 9% said they have resolved a dispute online or by text when they were having trouble getting past it face to face.

The Pew study also noted that younger couples are more apt to say that technology affects their relationship -- both positively and negatively.

For instance, 41% of 18- to 29-year-olds said technology helps them feel closer to their partner, and 23% of the same age group said technology helped them resolve an argument.

Not everyone felt positively about technology's role in their love life, however.

According to the report, 8% of Internet users who are part of a couple said they've argued with their partner about the amount of time one of them was spending online. Another 4% said they had been upset about something they discovered their partner was doing online.

The numbers jump for younger couples.

Pew noted that 42% of 18- to 29-year-olds reported that their partner had been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together, and 18% said they've argued about the amount of time one of them spends online.

This article, Technology may be helping your relationship, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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