Everything that's allegedly great about communication for humans is terrible for romance, AKA, will we ever HEAR the lolz again? It was inevitable that, as mouth people, we'd create ways to get our message out in as few grunts as possible, and while this has been a boon for general humanity, it has left modern lovers in an impossible struggle between access and restraint, helplessly pitting that delicate balance of mystery so crucial to passion against our horrible, insatiable need to find out every single detail about our beloved right down to his fantasy baseball league choices from 2007. To say nothing of the fact that nearly everyone knows someone whose online behavior has gotten them into some kind of trouble. But among various forms of social media, is there a more treacherous taint to your hard-won harmony? Let's suss.
The Medium: Twitter
The Message: Anything you can say in 140 characters, sucka!
The Warning: Since Twitter is built for finding and interacting with complete strangers, famous people and complete twats, it feels less connected to the ins and outs of your personal romance. However, like any virtual collection of possible people one could ever sleep with, virtually or otherwise, it may as well be another digital bar with free booze. So it's possible to start a romance, end one, vibe the fuck out of someone or monitor your loved ones online via their Twitter activity.
The Risk: 1 out of 5. Sure, you could fight over the fact that your significant other isn't RT'ing you enough and favorites everything Rashida Jones ever says, but that's just dumb. It's hard to get much shadiness going on with such a built-in brevity and transparency. You're more likely to have your own breakup live-tweeted by someone else, like what the infamous Burger King breakup. (Bonus sadpoints: Both of them thought the other person was cheating because of MUTUALLY MISSED PHONE CALLS.)
The Medium: Email
The Message: Emails can be saved forever. Uh, yikes? In the form of love letters to your significant other, it's like a digital firebox of all the good stuff you ever said to each other. It's also going to include all the emailed fights, so get ready for that Cringe-Fest 2000. All of the above can make for a depressing postmortem in the event you ever break up (and you will break up).
The Warning: RIP, handwritten love letters. Also, since people often have email accounts for a very long time, it's a treasure trove of your activities for good and ill over what could be decades of your life. Past relationships, job seeking, bad email forwarding habits, fringe listservs — anyone who stumbles onto this cache and decides to prowl is highly likely to leave that pain cave with at least a few questions. Sure, it's password protected, and yet, everyone eventually forgets to log out of their email account. Nearly every woman I know has seen the email of her significant other (some studies say 1 in 10 people have done this). Some even know the passwords and check in regularly, often for extended periods of time, to simply monitor the activities of their partner or find out what he or she really wants for Christmas (kidding).
The Risk: 2 out of 5. Having an email account is de rigueur, and not innately problematic. If you're not up to anything, there's nothing to find. If you're honest, there's nothing here that should contradict that. But if you're into lying, email is just one more avenue for your secret shady antics, and it could really undo you.
The Medium: Texting/IM'ing
The Message: Flirting, sexting, date planning — the possibilities are limited only by how much time you have to devote to the art of instant, sexy, silent lolz. If your relationship is good, this is just one more way to keep in touch with someone, to let them know you're thinking about them, share funny jokes and secret pictures of your most despised colleague. If it's bad, it's another avenue for the shitty shit to get shittier. Regardless, both present the fun opportunity to misconstrue the dick out of everything the other person says.
The Warning: It's all just a little too easy, ya know? Is a texted kiss as good as a real one? Is a texted 'I'm sorry' supposed to make up for that bullshit with the dishwasher the other day? At worst, it's lazy, and sometimes it's just down right rude. To say nothing of the fact that because it's so easy and quick, anyone who doesn't respond to texts immediately draws suspicion for being off the digital leash for too long. Also, people stupidly think it actually replaces real talking or, in opposite land, "doesn't count" - a quarter of the respondents in one study said they flirted with someone other than partner via text. And of course, to say nothing of what it would be like to actually end the relationship via text. Says a woman who was rudely dumped over text: The text is the pygmy of communication methods. It's a Post-it note, a P.S. It's minimum investment, minimum effort. It's often cowardly — a way to avoid face-to-face contact."
The Risk: 3 out of 5. Whether you're phoning it in, chatting up someone else, or not responding enough or at all, the risk is high that texting or chatting at some point or another is going to get you into trouble.
The Medium: Facebook
The Message: Jealous much? Because everyone you and your partner have ever known, thought about, wanted to know, slept with or thought about sleeping with, from your high school boyfriend to the chick he worked with for one month at the library junior year, is right there online now in a virtual library of people for you to reconnect with, get to know or avoid sleeping with.
The Warning: No matter the status of your actual in-person romance, Facebook, AKA "the mystery killer" is its public-facing representative. It is proof positive (or negative) of how your relationship is allegedly going. Did you "like" your partner's statuses enough? Did you friend that gargoyle you used to hook up with? Are you FB-messaging your ex-boyfriend? People are crazy-weird about Facebook because it's your cultivated brand, and if a partner won't even participate in cultivating the brand of your relationship together - now easily viewable by a handy vomitorious link - then how can you count on them to put the work in? And the casual cruelty of the whole Facebook breakup thing is. Just. Brutal.
The Risk: 4 out of 5. Facebook is so transparent and so contrived, and yet, just enough out of your control, what with how other people can constantly attempt to pop in and out of your life in the form of friend requests, comments, likes, shares, too much flirtation, etc., and it's a veritable landmine of opportunities to fuck it up. If you're in a relationship, something, somewhere on Facebook has happened that has sparked an unpleasant discussion, or worse. Divorce lawyers say Facebook in particular is a goldmine of information for divorce proceedings, as this handy infograph explains.
The Medium: Netflix/TV
The Message: If you're in a couple and you live together, sitting down together at night once the work is done or the kids are put to bed and finding something to watch on Netflix or TV is pretty much how we do it in Carb-Friendly, Get-to-Sitting America.
The Warning: People who watch a lot of TV are allegedly at risk for romance problems in the first place because it means you probably buy into a bunch of bullshit about how relationships actually work. Or more specifically, you're "less committed" to relationships, probably because you've been primed on the idea of a veritable buffet of options since commercial break one. Hey, don't get mad at me! It's a study. More hilariously, Netflix's streaming binge-watching capability, and the ability to secretly "watch ahead" of your significant other on season 2 of Melrose Place presents a fresh opportunity to grab a hammer and go ahead and slam the first ceremonious crack in the relationship glass, as beautifully, hilariously documented in this favor to humanity written by Maureen O'Connor over at The Cut.
The Risk: 5 out of 5. It may seem innocent to skip ahead of your significant other on House of Cards, but sooner than later you'll realize that the real House of Cards is your fragile relationship, the one so dishonest, so forced, so full of deceipt and shadiness that you can't even wait the one extra day to finish Alias. And you call yourself faithful.
The question, then, isn't IF Netflix streaming — the marshmallow test of modern romance — will tear us apart, it's WHEN. Consider yourself paused.