Keeping Up with Long-Distance Relationships Isn’t as Hard as it Used to Be

By Brianna De Jesus-Banos, SML Research Assistant

Technology has given us the ability to maintain relationships across long distances, despite the lack of physical intimacy that geographically close relationships offer. Maybe that intimacy is lacking, but thankfully emojis offer some sort of replacement for the lack of physical cues given as text-based communication has become a more interactive method of communication.

As a current student in COMM 3400 Personal Relationships and Technology here at Cornell University, I am involved in a group research project looking specifically at how people in long-distance romantic relationships use emojis in text messaging to maintain their relationships. This class focuses specifically on how technology has both enhanced and disrupted personal relationships. For our study we decided to focus specifically on long-distance relationships, as they are not uncommon, especially among college students. Being away from home is something that is familiar to an average college student, so looking into how technology has helped us develop mechanisms to cope with distance is primarily the reason why we focused on emojis within text-based communication.

Researching long-distance relationships is fascinating because the geographic separation between couples leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Thus the question of how technology plays a role in that space is interesting. One recent study suggests that long-distance romantic relationships are equal to geographically close relationships when it comes to trust and satisfaction.

How is this possible you ask? Technology gives us reach, the ability to connect across borders, and mobility, the ability to take our devices with us as we move freely with our devices. For example, reach lets us text with a friend in Australia at any time, and mobility lets you send messages either from your phone or your laptop. This flexibility is especially significant in long-distance relationships, as couples are better able to adapt to long distances when they have options for where, when, and which medium to use to communicate.

Think back to the last time you connected with someone who lived far away. Technology is now vital to long distance communication, so you most likely used your phone or laptop to connect. The same can be said about romantic relationships. When we can’t be physically with the people we care about, we have to use technology to convey those missing physical cues. Many long-distance daters use emojis to enhance the emotional response that is lacking within long-distance relationships.

That’s not to say that technology replaces intimacy or in any way makes up for it, because nothing beats being face-to-face with the person you love. However, we found in our study that women in long-distance romantic relationships did find an increased relational satisfaction with their partners if they used emojis when communicating via text.

So what does this mean for long-distance relationships?

Well for one it means that we can at least rely on technology to facilitate the satisfaction of relationships we would normally get in person. It’s not perfect, but thankfully we can depend on the smiley-face we receive in the morning or the heart-shaped emoji we get at night to make us feel a little more connected despite the distance. Technology allows you to be connected without actually being there and maybe it’s superficial in some ways, but it allows us to communicate at any time of the day and is in many ways reassuring for relationships to either develop together or grow apart.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.