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Teens are wary of social media romance—and they still make phone calls

Social media is sometimes too public.


Selena Larson


Posted on Oct 1, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 9:20 pm CDT

Teens are stereotypically thought to be on the cutting edge of modern technologies, but when it comes to love and relationships, they’re quite conscious of the impact social media can have on privacy—and they still use the phone to have real conversations. 

A new study by Pew Research of more than 1,000 teens ages 13 to 17 takes a look at the ways they use technology to connect with and maintain romantic relationships. The data shows that while social media plays a role in the way they demonstrate their affection for one another, texting, calling, and hanging out IRL are still the most popular ways of cementing those budding teenage relationships. 

When it comes to publicly showing how much they like their partner, 37 percent of teens have used social media to do so. But it’s not necessarily a good thing. A full 69 percent of teenagers with dating experience say social media allows too many people to see what’s happening in their relationship. 

Adults, too, are still figuring out how to navigate social media and relationships, and while invasive, sharing your love life on social media could lead to longer romantic partnerships. One study earlier this year found that couples who regularly broadcast their relationship on Facebook stayed together longer.

For some teenagers, social media can be a catalyst for jealousy towards partners in relationships. Twenty seven percent of teens say social media leads to jealousy or feeling unsure about their partner. The research group asked teens to talk about how they use different platforms and methods for staying connected to their significant others, and one high school boy said that because there are so many different platforms to use, it’s possible to connect with a different girl on each. 

Sometimes, if you [are romantically involved with] a bunch of girls, you can have set time periods – where it’s like you can ignore her for a little bit and talk to her. And then you would go back and instead of talking to her, be like, sorry, I was in the shower or something like that. Or I was asleep? Do you know what I mean? You use different apps to talk to different girls. You can text one girl. You can be Kik-ing another girl, then Snapchatting another girl.

While some use apps to connect with sidebaes, texting is still the most common way to connect with partners. Ninety-two percent text each other and 87 percent spend time talking on the phone. So despite the ubiquity of mobile devices and dozens of apps for sexting and snapping, teens these days still embrace their luddite roots—at least when it comes to love.

Photo by Salt of the Earth/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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*First Published: Oct 1, 2015, 2:38 pm CDT