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Santa Fe High freshman Taylor Witowski text messages can make it ‘harder to understand context and tone’ in a relationship.

Social media and technology have drastically changed the teen dating game.

With the rise of smartphones and iPads came social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat — even dating-

specific apps such as Tinder and Bumble — which continue to allow a growing number of teens to express romantic interest and meet significant others virtually.

From meeting someone online to scheduling a date on Tinder and keeping up with a long-distance relationship via FaceTime, apps and chats seemingly have the power to make or break one’s chance at love.

Santa Fe High freshman Ariana Gonzales, who met her boyfriend in elementary school, said social media not only helps teens meet but also provides a more convenient mode of communication.

Gonzales said Instagram and Snapchat helped her get to know her boyfriend better — “I even got asked out over text.”

Such interactions are fairly common among teens. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found 8 percent of teen couples met online. It said 50 percent of teens “friended” a romantic interest on Facebook or another social media site, and 47 percent expressed their attraction by liking, flirtatiously commenting or otherwise interacting with that person online.

Santa Fe-based therapist Kelsey Ullrich said there are both pros and cons that stem from social media’s impact on teen dating. One concern is that younger generations don’t experience a vital aspect of dating with the addition of technology: vulnerability. Ullrich advises adolescents to get comfortable being uncomfortable — not solely behind a screen.

Though Ullrich said communication via phone or text “feels less risky,” she argues it is not always authentic “and people miss out on who we really are — which is also a way to avoid vulnerability.”

Santa Fe High freshman Taylor Witowski, who has been dating her girlfriend, Destiny Larranaga, for a little over a year, noted another downside to social media’s influence on relationships. She said communicating via text makes it “harder to understand context and tone.”

“That has caused miscommunications and a couple of fights in our relationship,” she added.

Alejandro Castillo, a Santa Fe mother of three, said social media apps, most of which were released in the 2010s, also affect communication. Reminiscing about her own dating experience as a teen, she said, “The boy had to ask the girl in person, looking her in the eyes, if she would be his girlfriend.”

Castillo recalled long conversations over the phone and dates at shopping malls, movie theaters, neighborhood playgrounds and birthday parties.

“I believe it’s still intimidating and exciting for young people to date,” she said. But she added that “social media has somewhat depersonalized relationships.”

“Nowadays, dating is a lot of texting and images exchanged, which at times can be misleading and superficial,” she said.

Katharina Babcock, also a mother of three, agreed that “dating in the past was always an in-person type of thing,” and that today “you don’t even have to necessarily see each other in person” to connect.

Babcock said one concern she has involves privacy. She believes people can find themselves in unsafe situations by having interactions over social media with strangers.

Ullrich agreed: “You don’t really know who you are connecting to, and that can be potentially dangerous.”

Yet, because social media has become so embedded in American culture, using it safely and appropriately in the context of dating can be advantageous, she said.

“I would say don’t make that your primary form of communication,” she said. “I think it is really important to build the foundation of a relationship through face to face.”

Luke Beingessner-Chavez is a freshman at Santa Fe High school. Contact him at Luke80122@gmail.com.

Aviva Nathan is a freshman at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at avivafnathan@gmail.com.

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