#onlinedating | Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age | #bumble | #tinder | #pof

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How we did this

Pew Research Center has long studied the changing nature of romantic relationships as well as the role of digital technology in people’s lives. This particular report focuses on the patterns, experiences and attitudes related to digital technology use in romantic relationships. These findings are based on a survey conducted Oct. 16 to 28, 2019, among 4,860 U.S. adults. This includes those who took part as members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses, as well as respondents from the Ipsos KnowledgePanel who indicated that they identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

Recruiting ATP panelists by phone or mail ensures that nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. This gives us confidence that any sample can represent the whole U.S. adult population (see our Methods 101 explainer on random sampling). To further ensure that each ATP survey reflects a balanced cross-section of the nation, the data is weighted to match the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.

For more, see the report’s Methodology. You can also find the questions asked, and the answers the public provided in the topline.

Amid growing debates about the impact of smartphones and social media on romantic relationships, a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2019 finds that many Americans encounter some tech-related struggles with their significant others.

For instance, among partnered adults in the U.S. – that is, those who are married, cohabiting or in a committed relationship, roughly half (51%) say their partner is often or sometimes distracted by their cellphone while they are trying to have a conversation with them, and four-in-ten say they are at least sometimes bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their mobile device.

Partnered adults under the age of 50 are particularly likely to express the feeling that their partner is distracted by their phone, with those ages 30 to 49 most likely to report this. Fully 62% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 52% of 18-to 29-year-olds who are in a romantic relationship say their partner is at least sometimes distracted by their phone when they’re trying to talk them. Still, this issue is not confined to younger age groups: 41% of partnered Americans ages 50 and older say they have encountered this in their relationship at least sometimes.

With phones being such a distraction, people might be tempted to look through their partner’s phone. However, there is widespread agreement among the public that digital snooping in couples is unacceptable. Seven-in-ten Americans – regardless of whether they are in a relationship – say it is rarely or never acceptable for someone to look through their partner’s cellphone without that person’s knowledge. Still, 34% of partnered adults say they have looked through their partner’s cellphone without that person’s knowledge, with women being more likely than men to say they have done this (42% vs. 25%).

For many adults, social media plays a role in the way they navigate and share information about their romantic relationships. Roughly eight-in-ten social media users (81%) report that they at least sometimes see others posting about their relationships, including 46% who say this happens often, but few say that seeing these posts affects how they feel about their own love life.

Moreover, social media has become a place where some users discuss relationships and investigate old ones. Roughly half of social media users (53%) say they have used these platforms to check up on someone they used to date or be in a relationship with, while 28% say they have used social media to share or discuss things about their relationship or dating life. For adult users under the age of 30, those shares who have used social media to checked-up on a former partner (70%) or posted about their own love life (48%) are even higher.

But social media can also be a source of annoyance and conflict for some couples. Among those whose partner uses social media, 23% say they have felt jealous or unsure of their relationship because of the way their current partner interacts with others on these sites, and this share rises to 34% among those ages 18 to 29.

Still, some users view these platforms as an important venue for showing love and affection. This is especially true for younger users who are partnered: 48% of 18- to 29-year-old social media users say social media is very or somewhat important for them in showing how much they care about their partner.

These are some of the main findings from a nationally representative survey of 4,860 U.S. adults conducted online Oct. 16 to 28, 2019, using Pew Research Center’s American Trend Panel.

Terminology

Several terms are used in this report to describe people’s current relationship status. This reference guide explains each term.
Single is used to describe people who are not currently in a committed relationship but may be casually dating (31% of the sample).
Single and looking refers to people who are not in a committed relationship (but may be casually dating) and are looking for dates or a relationship (15% of the sample).
Casually dating refers to single people who are casually dating someone but are not in a committed relationship (4% of the sample).
Partnered refers to adults who are married, cohabiting or in a committed relationship (69% of the sample).
Cohabiting is used to describe people who currently live with their partner but are not married (11% of the sample).
Committed relationship is used to describe people who are in a relationship but are not married or cohabiting (8% of the sample).
Unmarried is used to refer to any adults who are not currently married – single, cohabiting or in a committed relationship (50% of the sample). This term is sometimes used in conjunction with the term “partnered” to refer to those who are cohabiting or in a committed relationship (for example, unmarried partnered adults constitute 19% of the sample).

40% of partnered adults say they are bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their cellphone

At the time of the survey, four-in-ten Americans who are married, living with a partner or who are in a committed relationship say they are often or sometimes bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their cellphone, including 12% who say they feel this way often.

In addition, 24% of partnered Americans report that they are at least sometimes bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on social media, while a somewhat smaller share (15%) say they feel this way about their partner playing video games.

There are certain groups who are more likely to express annoyance over their partner’s digital activities than others. Among partnered adults, women are more likely than men to say they are often bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their cellphone (16% vs. 8%) or playing video games (7% vs. 3%).

Beyond gender differences, people’s attitudes also vary by age. Some 18% of partnered adults ages 18 to 49 say they are often bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on their phone, compared with 6% of those ages 50 and older. Younger adults in romantic relationships also are more likely than their older counterparts to say they are often bothered by the amount of time their partner spends on social media (11% vs. 4%) and playing video games (7% vs. 3%).

Roughly half of partnered people say their significant other is distracted by their phone at least sometimes when they try to talk to them

While relatively few Americans are familiar with the term “phubbing” – which is the practice of snubbing others in favor of their cellphones – notable shares say they have encountered that behavior in their romantic relationships.

When asked to reflect on their partner’s cellphone use, 51% of Americans in a romantic relationship say their partner is at least sometimes distracted by their cellphone when they are trying to have a conversation with them, including 16% who say their significant other is often distracted by their mobile device.

This pattern differs by age: Roughly six-in-ten partnered adults ages 30 to 49 say their significant other is at least sometimes distracted by their cellphone when they are trying to hold a conversation with them, compared with 52% of those ages 18 to 29 and even smaller shares for those ages 50 and older (41%). Among those in relationships, younger adults also are more likely than older adults to assert that their partner is often distracted by their phone when they are trying to have a discussion (20% vs. 10%).

Women who are in a relationship are more likely than men to say their partner is often distracted by their phone while they are trying to hold a conversation, but this gender difference is most pronounced among younger adults. Three-in-ten partnered women ages 18 to 29 say their significant other is often distracted by their phone while they are trying to hold a conversation, compared with 15% of men in this age group who say this.

About one-in-three partnered adults say they have looked through their current spouse or partner’s phone without their knowledge, but there’s strong public consensus this is unacceptable

Americans – regardless of whether they are in a relationship – were asked in the survey about their views about some issues related to technology and relationships. For example, they weighed in on the acceptability of looking through a significant other’s phone without that person’s knowledge. Seven-in-ten U.S. adults say it is rarely (28%) or never (42%) acceptable to look through a significant other’s cellphone without their knowledge. Smaller shares – about three-in-ten (29%) – view this behavior as at least sometimes acceptable.

Majorities across major demographic groups view these actions as unacceptable, but there are some Americans who are more accepting of this behavior than others.

Women are more likely than men to think it is at least sometimes acceptable for someone to look through their partner’s cellphone without their knowledge (35% vs. 24%). And about one-third of adults under the age of 65 (33%) view this as acceptable, compared with 16% of those 65 and older.

Americans’ views on the acceptability of looking through a partner’s phone varies by current relationship status. Americans who are married or cohabiting are more likely than those who are single or in a committed relationship to say that looking through a significant other’s phone without that person’s knowledge is sometimes or always acceptable.

Despite the overall public uneasiness with this type of digital snooping, there are some Americans who report that they have looked through their significant other’s phone without that person’s knowledge. Roughly one-third of partnered adults (34%) say they have done this, but there are substantial differences by gender, age and relationship status when it comes to looking through a significant other’s phone.

Among adults who are partnered, women are far more likely than men to report that they have looked through their current partner’s phone without that person’s knowledge (42% vs. 25%). And while 52% of partnered adults ages 18 to 29 say they have done this, those shares are 41% among those ages 30 to 49, 29% among those ages 50 to 64 and 13% among those 65 and older.

These actions also vary by the type of relationship. Roughly four-in-ten Americans (41%) who are living with a partner report that they have looked through their current partner’s phone without that person’s knowledge, compared with 27% of those who are in committed relationship and 34% of those who are married. However, this pattern is largely due age differences in relationship status, as twice as many adults under 50 live with a partner than do those 50 and older. While 48% cohabiters under 50 report having gone through their partner’s phone without that person’s knowledge, only 18% of cohabiters ages 50 and older say the same.

There also are some differences by race and ethnicity. About half of Hispanic adults who are in a relationship say they have looked through their partner’s phone, compared with a third among their black or white counterparts.

Those in partnered relationships also are more likely to look through their partner’s cellphone without that person’s knowledge if they think it is acceptable to do so (61% say they have done this). Smaller shares of partnered adults who deem this unacceptable say they have personally gone through their current partner’s phone – though still about one-in-five say they have done this.

It is fairly common for partners to share the password or passcode to their cellphone

Overall, sharing passwords to digital devices or accounts is a fairly common practice in romantic relationships. In the October 2019 survey, a majority of Americans who are married, cohabiting or in a committed relationship say they have given their spouse or partner the password for their cellphone (75%), their email account (62%) or any of their social media accounts (42%).

Still, experiences do vary depending on the type of relationship partnered people have. Married or cohabiting adults are much more likely to share their cellphone or social media passwords with their partner than those who are in a committed relationship but are not living with their partner. Roughly three-quarters or more of married adults (79%) or those who live with a partner (74%) say they have given their partner the password to their cellphone, compared with 58% of those who are in a committed relationship. A similar pattern is present among partnered social media users when they are asked about whether they have shared their login information for any of their social media accounts. When it comes to email password sharing, married adults are the most likely group to say they have given their email password to their partner: 70% say this, compared with 50% of cohabiting internet users and just 22% of those in a committed relationship.

There also are some differences by age. Among partnered adults, those ages 18 to 49 are more likely than those ages 50 and older to say they have given their cellphone password to their spouse or partner (81% vs. 69%). On the other hand, older adults are more likely than younger adults to say they have shared their email password with their significant other (70% vs. 59%).

Most social media users see other people post about their relationship or dating life, but relatively few say these posts affect how they feel about their own relationship

This survey conducted last fall also examined how social media might be affecting the way people think about their own love lives. More specifically, does seeing relationship posts on social media affect the way people think about their own relationships?

Overall, eight-in-ten social media users see others post about their relationship on social media often or sometimes. This differs by both age and gender. Women are slightly more likely than men to see these posts (84% vs. 77%). In addition, 90% of social media users ages 18 to 49 say they see these types of post at least sometimes, compared with 68% of those ages 50 and older.

A majority of social media users who are in a relationship (81%) say they see posts about other people’s relationships when using social media. Among these partnered social media users, 78% of those who are married say they at least sometimes see posts about other people’s relationships, compared with 89% of those who are living with partner and 86% of those in a committed relationship.

Overall, seeing these posts appears to have little effect on how people view their own romantic relationships. A large majority of partnered adults (81%) who at least sometimes see posts about other people’s relationships say that these posts have not made much of difference in how they feel about their own relationship. On the other hand, relatively few say these posts make them feel better (9%) or worse (9%) about their relationship.

When it comes to social media users who are single and looking, 87% see other people making posts about their relationships on social media platforms at least sometimes. Social media users who are single and not looking for a relationship or dates are less likely to report seeing these types of posts at least sometimes (78%).

A third of the social media users who are single and looking and who say they see others’ posts about their love life say that seeing these posts makes them feel worse. This compares with 62% who report that such posts by others do not make much of a difference in how they feel about their own dating life. Just 4% say it makes them feel better.

These relationship-focused posts tend to have a bigger impact on women than men. Among social media users who are single and looking, women who see relationships posts at least sometimes are more likely to report that seeing these posts on social media makes them feel worse about their dating lives than are their male counterparts (40% vs. 28%).

About three-in-ten social media users say they have discussed their love life on social media

While it is fairly common for social media users to come across other people posting things about their love lives, only a minority of Americans who use these platforms (28%) say they have ever shared or discussed things about their relationship or dating life. About four-in-ten adults who are living with their partner (39%) and nearly half of those in a committed relationship (48%) but not living together say they have ever posted about their relationship on social media. Conversely, married and single adults are the least likely to post about their love lives (24% and 26%, respectively).

About four-in-ten social media users who are either Hispanic or lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) say they have ever posted about their dating life or relationship on social media, while around one-quarter of white, black and straight social media users say the same.

Younger social media users also are more likely to have posted about their love lives on social media previously. While about half of social media users ages 18 to 29 have ever posted on social media about their dating life or relationship, a third of 30- to 49-year-olds say the same. By comparison, far fewer social media users ages 50 and older (11%) say they ever post about their relationship or dating life.

Roughly half of social media users have used these sites to check up on an ex-romantic partner

Using social media to check up on former romantic partners is a fairly common practice among social media users. About half of social media users (53%) say they have used these sites to check up on someone with whom they were in a relationship or whom they used to date.

Social media users ages 18 to 49 are far more likely than those ages 50 and older to report using social media to check up on an ex-romantic partner. Seven-in-ten 18- to 29-year-olds report that they have used these platforms to check up on someone they used to date or be in a relationship with. That share is lower – though still a majority – among users ages 30 to 49 and falls sharply among those ages and 50 and older.

There also are some notable differences, depending on a person’s relationship status. About two-thirds each of social media users who are cohabiting or in a committed relationship say they have used social media to check up on someone they used to date. Meanwhile, 56% of single people, and even fewer married people (45%), say the same. In addition, social media users who have a high school degree or less education are less likely to report that they have used to social media to check up on an ex-romantic partner than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree or who have some college experience.

Younger Americans in relationships are especially likely to view social media as having an important role in connecting and keeping up with their partner

Overall, about three-in-ten partnered adults who use social media say that these sites are at least somewhat important in showing how much they care about their partner (33%) or keeping up with what is going on in their partner’s life (28%). But the level of importance that these users place on social media varies substantially by age. Among partnered social media users, 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds say these platforms are very or somewhat important in how they show how much they care about their partner, compared with 28% of those ages 30 and older who say this.

There also are age differences when it comes to the importance social media users place on these platforms for keeping up with their significant other’s life. About four-in-ten partnered users ages 18 to 29 say social media is somewhat or very important when it comes to keeping up with what’s going on in their partner’s life, compared with 29% of those ages 30 to 49 and only 17% of those ages 50 and older.

Married social media users are more likely than those who are cohabiting or in a committed relationship to say they do not see social media as important for keeping up with what’s going on in their partner’s life or for showing how much they care about their partner.

The level of importance that partnered adults place on social media also varies by race and ethnicity as well as by sexual orientation. Nonwhite social media users are more likely than white users to say these platforms are a very or somewhat important for keeping up with their partner’s life and showing how much they care. Among partnered social media users, LGB adults are more likely than those who are straight to say social media is at least somewhat important for keeping up with their partner’s life or showing how much they care.

Even when controlling for age, racial and ethnic differences persist when it comes to the likelihood of saying social media is a personally important way to keep up with one’s partner or show how much they care. Similarly, marital status and sexual orientation are significant predictors of how important it is for people to use social media to keep up with one’s partner, even after controlling for age differences.

Social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults

Even as younger Americans value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life, they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.

Overall, 23% of partnered adults whose significant other uses social media say they have felt jealous or unsure about their relationship because of the way their current spouse or partner interacts with other people on social media. But this share is even higher among those in younger age groups.

Among partnered adults whose significant other uses social media, 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 26% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media, compared with 19% of those ages 50 to 64 who say this and 4% of those ages 65 and up. Nearly four-in-ten unmarried adults with partners who are social media users (37%) say they have felt this way about their current partner, while only 17% of married people say the same.

Women also are more likely to express displeasure with how their significant other interacts with others on social media. Women who say their partner uses social media are more likely than men to say they have felt jealous or unsure of their relationships because of how their partner interacts with others on social media (29% vs. 17%).

Among those whose partner uses social media, about three-in-ten nonwhite adults who are in a relationship report having felt jealous or uncertain in their current relationship based on their partner’s social media interactions, compared with 19% of white adults who say the same. About one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media, while 22% of straight people say this. College graduates are less likely to report having felt this way than those with some college experience or a high school degree or less.


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