Trying to Connect
Cara SantucciNews Editor
Chris LinMercury Staff
Kevin VanhornMercury Staff
Couples use technology to find each other, communicate in modern age
Accounting junior Ashley Sutherland and her future husband Ryan first crossed paths when they were members of the same 30-person alliance in the online game “Evony.”
The two quickly bonded over music and anime as they became friends on Facebook, Skype and Xbox Live.
Sutherland and Ryan maintained their friendship for five months back in 2010, until one day their relationship blossomed into something more romantic. There was only one problem: they had never met in person.
After nine months of dating, they decided to move in together.
Sutherland boarded a plane and traveled 650 miles to be with Ryan. She lived in Albuquerque. He lived in Dallas.
“I was like, you know, ‘Might as well take a chance,’” Sutherland said. “It was really the best thing I ever did.”
The Game of Love
Sutherland’s connection through online gaming is just one example of how dating has evolved along with technology.
The beginning of Sutherland’s relationship with Ryan was all long distance.
“We would call each other, and we were just constantly talking on the phone all the time,” she said. “And when we weren’t on the phone, we were on Skype or playing video games together. … It actually wasn’t that hard to do.”
When they finally closed the distance and moved in together, Sutherland wasn’t able to meet Ryan for another three days upon settling down in his parents’ house in Dallas because he was out of town on business. Ryan said while his parents knew about his relationship, they didn’t really understand it.
“My dad didn’t get it. I’m pretty sure he was confused the entire time we had our long distance relationship before she moved here. I don’t think either of them really took it seriously,” Ryan said. “I asked them to help me get her here and it was like a light switch went on for them. They were like, ‘Oh, maybe he is serious about this.’ And as soon as that happened, they were 100 percent supportive and wanted to help me in any way.”
Eventually, they tied the knot and will have been married for three years in May.
Although the Sutherlands have had to explain their unconventional relationship to those in their lives who found it confusing, Ryan said it’s becoming increasingly common for people to meet online like they did.
“It’s amazing how much just dating in general has changed since we met,” Ryan said. “Before you would say, ‘Oh, I’m dating someone online,’ and people would think it was weird. They’d kind of freak out about it, but now it’s such a common thing that no one really blinks at it. … It’s become more widely accepted.”
He said technology is what facilitated this change.
“There’s so many ways to be connected now that it’s easy to spend time with someone that’s hundreds of miles away,” he said.
Fighting the Distance
Samantha Serio, a mathematics sophomore, is also involved in a long distance relationship. Unlike the Sutherlands, however, Serio began dating her boyfriend Clayton Bradley in high school, where they both lived in the same city in Maryland.
Serio and Bradley started going out about three and a half years ago. The two have had to keep their relationship long distance for the past two years ever since Bradley joined the Army. He is currently stationed in North Carolina.
She said making long distance relationships work is a matter of personality.
“I think for long distance, you have to be the type of person that’s willing to be away from them,” she said. “You’re willing to make sacrifices in your relationship that a normal face-to-face relationship wouldn’t have.”
Serio said it’s important for her and Bradley to have verbal communication every day whenever his work schedule permits it.
“(Skype’s) made my relationship something that it probably couldn’t have been prior to that being invented,” Serio said. “Having technology, having texting, Skype, all those new, modern inventions are definitely, like, they aid in our relationship and make it more modern.”
Another element that Serio said makes her relationship modern is what she wants out of it.
“Now I think a lot of people — they still want love and they still want a family out of a relationship — but they’re more focused on meeting their own personal goals,” she said. “A lot of girls still want to have a family, but I don’t think it’s at the top of their list anymore.”
Swipe Left, Swipe Right
Tyler Leadbeater, a political science sophomore, plays the game of love a little differently. He’s been using Tinder to make connections for almost two years now.
Tinder is a popular dating app developed in 2012 that allows users in a similar location who show interest in one another to chat and potentially meet up.
“It kind of almost ruins real-life dating because, for example, if you are just walking through campus or something and you see someone you think is cute, you don’t know if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. You don’t know if they’re even interested in talking to you. So there’s a bit more of a risk,” Leadbeater said. “Whereas if you’re on Tinder, you know that they’re there (because) they swiped right on you (and) that they’re interested in you, obviously. So there’s a lot less of a risk of starting a conversation.”
Leadbeater said he is trying to wean himself off of using Tinder because of his newfound reluctance to talk to women in real life. The app has also caused issues of jealousy for Leadbeater in some of his relationships.
“It’s definitely addictive,” he said. “I have gotten into relationships since I’ve started using Tinder and that has been an issue in relationships because, like I said, it’s addicting. It’s hard to stop.”
Although he is leaning away from relying so much on the app to meet people, Leadbeater said he has learned valuable lessons about dating while using Tinder.
“It’s kind of given me a lot of experience into the dating world, because in high school I had a handful of relationships, but I didn’t really ever have anything too serious,” he said. “Going on Tinder definitely allowed me to kind of experience a little bit more different types of dating.”
Unlike Leadbeater and the Sutherlands, Alexis Manyrath, a physics freshman, met her boyfriend Ari in a more traditional way.
Manyrath and Ari began flirting after becoming fast friends in Residence Hall South. Even though the pair met in an organic environment, they keep in touch throughout the day in ways that would’ve been impossible just 10 years ago.
Manyrath and her boyfriend Facebook message, text and Snapchat one another throughout their busy days in order to stay in touch. However, the ease of communication that comes with technology hasn’t been all positive.
“I think some of the difficulties we have are very technological. Sometimes he’ll be on his phone and not paying attention to me and that really bothers me,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like I’m in competition with technology for people’s attention.”
She said she knows she will occasionally do the same to Ari. Manyrath said these difficulties are common now because the technology is so new, but as the methods mature and people get more used to it, it will get easier. They navigate the problem by setting aside time to just focus on one another — without the distraction of their phones.
Although technology can cause troubles and drive a wedge in relationships, Manyrath said she doesn’t think getting rid of it is the solution. Since they live on opposite sides of the country, they have an easier time communicating over breaks when they go home to Oregon and Massachusetts because of the advantages of technology.
“Older people sometimes don’t really understand how useful it is to be able to be connected like that,” she said. “I think it’s an important part of relationships nowadays to be able to use technology for the benefit of your relationship, rather than letting it drive you apart.”