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Technology’s role in long-distance relationships – Metro US

Technology’s role in long-distance relationships

Maintaining a relationship when geography keeps you apart isn’t easy.

Technology has certainly helped to bridge the gap. But while things like webcams and Skype, texting and email can literally keep you connected when school, work or even war separate you for long periods of time, these new technologies don’t always make long-distance relationships easier.

In fact, sometimes they can even make things worse.

“One of the problems with email when you’re in a long-distance relationships is that you can’t express tone and it’s easy to misread things,” explains 32-year-old Lisa, who’s boyfriend of two years is in Australia for a year for work.

“Emoticons help a bit, but there are limitations. Once in a while we deal with bigger emotional stuff by email, but we try to avoid it,” she continues.

“It can be tempting to write things in email you wouldn’t say to each other in person and, once it’s in writing and you hit send, you can’t take it back.”

Texting can be great because you can send each other quick “hits” throughout the day just to let the other person know you’re thinking about them. But, because technology has trained us to expect constant and immediate communication, if you don’t get a returned text immediately, it’s hard not to fill the empty space with doubt about why you haven’t heard back.

In some cases, communicating more often can even push long-distance couples apart.

Gregory Guldner is the director of the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships in the U.S. He also spent four months as an emergency physician in Iraq.

In an article in Forbes magazine, he says that, in the military, for instance, tools like satellite phones have broken down some barriers that would have better been left standing.

“Technological communication can interfere with the separate worlds that people are trying to maintain,” Guldner is quoted saying.

“When a soldier is pinned down in combat and his wife is at home trying to deal with a broken dishwasher, they can’t really relate to one another.”

And communication technology can only take “that long-distance feeling” so far.

Lisa and her boyfriend have regular video conferencing “dates.”

But, says Lisa, “While it can be fun to watch a movie together on a Saturday night while we’re both on webcam, sometimes, the experience just makes me miss being physically together even more.”

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