Friendship and romance are changing in the digital age. The Internet is helping people spend more time looking for love, and it’s also making friendships tighter.

If you just listened to the news you might think human relationships are in a hopeless state. Today’s headlines report a world where romance is dead and everyone is too transfixed by their screen to truly connect with others. But the truth of where we’re at is actually much richer, and while not perfect, significantly more hopeful.

While there are legitimate reports of high rates of loneliness among a significant minority, there are also signs that our friendships are becoming more intimate. Sociologists are reporting that friendship has now reached a significance once only reserved for family.

This makes sense when we understand that while time spent online will never replace face-to-face contact, it can meaningfully supplement it. We all might want to reflect on the statistic that half of kids today have made friends online they feel they wouldn’t have made offline. This generation is not only hanging out in person but is also constantly chatting in Whatsapp groups, bonding in video games and sharing their lives together on social media feeds. It’s leading to deeper friendships that are central to their lives.

This is also a generation that is investing more time in their romantic lives than ever before. While this new dating scene lacks some of the sense of serendipity of the old one, it is full of an idealistic commitment to finding a true connection and escaping the peak divorce rates of the boomer generation before them.

However, in both their platonic and romantic relationships, young people are having to navigate a fast changing set of rules and a new set of pitfalls. You might get frowned at for hitting on people at bars, so you’d better get your online banter up to par. You’ve got plenty of chances to find friends in Fortnite, but you need to know how to do it in a non-cringe worthy way.

It’s a new landscape of friendship and romance. One in which the digital and real worlds are truly intertwined, and it has a whole new set of rules. 

By The Numbers

10hrs, the average time single millennials spend on dating apps per week. Badoo Dating App Survey 2018 

65%, the percentage of Gen Z and millennials who are using apps to find a steady relationship, not one night stands. Protein Dating Trends 2020 

67%, the percentage of young people who feel isolated if they couldn’t talk to their friends via technology. U.K. Safer Internet Centre 2018 

50%, the percentage of Gen Z who say social media blends together with other ways they interact with friends. U.K. Safer Internet Centre 2018 

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