Textual Healing

Textual Healing 2

For Gemma Byrne (36), an administration assistant based in Sandymount, the influence of technology on Irish dating culture can pose some problems. After constant texting with a guy she met on a night out she suggested meeting up.

The guy got angry, telling Gemma he felt undue pressure was being applied. He never texted her again.

Gemma’s reaction was typical of anyone familiar with the changing dynamics of Ireland’s dating culture. The days of secret phone calls and late night meetings under Cleary’s clock are gone; instead there’s the technological driven dating culture of Facebook, Twitter, texting and online dating sites.

“Mobile phones have changed the way people date. The first thing you do when you meet somebody is swap numbers, and then depending on the type of person you’re possibly dating, there could be a lot of texting going on,” says Gemma.

According to Gemma, the rise of technology has meant communication between two people is constant, a far cry from the day when extensive communication was limited to the night you met your date. In some cases, communication between two people could start online and go on for weeks or months- without any discussion of meeting.

“If I’m interested in somebody I just want to get out and meet them and see how we get on in the flesh,” says Gemma who has had incidents where guys seem to be more comfortable shielded behind a barrier of technology rather than going on an actual date. This technological barrier can also hinder future communication between two people, as Dan Massey, (27), originally from London, will attest. “I’ve often given a guy my number online, not really remembered who they are,
received texts and just vaguely chatted away,” says Dan who also says he can’t remember a time when dating didn’t include technology.

“In London a decade ago, people met people through chat rooms and all of that stuff. You also met people out in bars, but the two things went hand in hand. I would say that Facebook has changed dating way more than dating sites have,” he says.

The changing dynamics of dating through technology has also led to a significant change in our sexual habits; creating a hook-up culture that thrives on instant technology.

For Sebastian Caine, a performance artist from Drogheda, online dating allowed him get his foot back in the door after his inital attempt to woo Linda went badly wrong. “We met through friends and I really liked her, so I went out of my way to impress her. Which made me seem really overt and attention seeking. She wasn’t interested at all. But over time I engaged her by responding to tweets and status updates and any kind of music or movie related posts she would put on her page. This lead to her posting on my wall, us both talking late into the night on FB chat and eventually, two months later, getting together when our two groups of friends went on holidays to Ibiza.” They got engaged last Christmas.

In “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy,” Donna Freitas, the books author who taught gender studies at Boston University, examines young people and hook-up culture and how it has had an adverse effect on the traditional date. Another author, Dan Slater in “Love in Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Mating,” suggests technology and online websites offer “endless choice, combining to form a vast mate-seeking arena I came to think as “date-o-sphere,” not a physical construct but not an entirely virtual one either,” he says.

“It is harder to find someone to go on a genuine date. Guys are better at detaching emotions and can see sex as just another fun activity,” says Josh Dean*, (23), an international business student at Dublin Business School.

For Josh, technology creates options for people, and makes it easier to dump one person and move onto the next. He does want a boyfriend, but the advent of technology gives guys sexual and relationship options unforeseen just ten years ago. This more illicit side of dating is glamorised in shows such as Sex and the City and the more recent HBO show Girls, where hook-ups from technology are quite common.

“I think Sex and the City had an influence on Irish dating and I think that made Irish people think ‘I can do that,’” says Gemma. “I think technology has changed dating beyond recognition, and on a personal level, I find it frustrating that there are people who stick in the technology world, and don’t want to be dating in reality,” she says.

*Josh Dean is a fictional name created to protect the identity of the source.

By Liam Cahill