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Keeping Couples Together when Apart, and Driving Them Apart when Together: Exploring the Impact of Smartphones on Relationships in the UK

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Abstract

Smartphones and internet technology have radically altered the ways in which social and romantic relationships are initiated, consolidated, and maintained. In academic research, a debate has emerged between those who see potential for reconfiguring gender and sexual norms and those who view technology as an interference in the maintenance of serious relationships. However, there is a lack of qualitative research that inductively examines these issues. Addressing this gap, this research draws on in-depth interviews with 30 people aged 18–55 who were in a long-term relationship for at least one year at the point of data collection. We found that internet technology, particularly smartphones, had become a central component of romantic relationships. However, they were also the source of tension, although participants had developed a number of strategies to deal with these issues. Situating these findings within theories of leisure, sex, and individualization, we argue for a middle ground that sees the benefits of smartphones in relationships while also recognizing the potential detriments that exist.

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  • M Chaves
Sexual use of the internet: Perceived impact on MSM’s views of self and others
  • N Nodin
  • A Carballo Dieguez
  • IMP Leal
Thinking sex: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality
  • G Rubin