The Role Of Digital Technology In Long Distance Relationships

By | June 16, 2019

I was involved in a long distance relationship for about 2 years. Let’s call her Gwen. She was a cousin of my friend but grew up in the US. She was born here in Singapore but moved over when she was 5 years old.

She added me on Facebook and we talked online several times. We met up a few times when she would come back to Singapore for trips to see relatives and such.

Gwen was special. I never got along so well with a girl. It was a case of where we clicked from the first moment we started to talk. I felt no fear, no shyness and no lack of confidence. I could be me and not try to impress her. She understood and laughed at whatever lame jokes I cracked. Similarly, I found her to be a smart, funny and an attractive girl. Soon enough, I started going on Facebook 24/7 hoping to catch her online so that we could chat.

But long distance relationships are the hardest of all. I asked several friends about their experiences. A friend’s older sister, Cecilia, studied in Perth, Western Australia about 12 years ago. She said that it was difficult. Back in her day, she had email and ICQ. But it was on a 56k dial up modem so it was very, very slow. The school’s computer lab was running on IBM machines with MS-DOS software, not even Windows.

Digital cameras were around but they were beyond what a constantly broke student could afford. So her boyfriend had to develop photos the old fashioned way and send them to her via snail mail.

But now in present day, all cellphones have cameras and you can immediately take a photo and send it via “whatsapp”. Everyone has a Facebook account and a webcam is standard with every laptop. Skype lets you make phone calls for free. There are even websites like View2gether and SeeToo that let couples view photos and videos in real time.

I know of a couple that celebrated via webcam. The boyfriend bought ordered a cake and blew out the candle for his girlfriend on Skype. So in a way, technology has made long distance relationships a whole lot easier to bear.

But although there are technologies and platforms that let you stay connected, it doesn’t necessarily mean you communicate better. Cecilia mentions that since she had to be so frugal back when she was a student, she really looked forward and treasure those phone calls with her boyfriend. They were forced to communicate better. “We didn’t want to waste time arguing,” she says.

Another thing I realized that although I could see Gwen, say “hi” and hear her voice, I couldn’t reach out and touch her, give her a hug nor feel her skin on mine. I could not physically be there for her when she needed me the most. The simple things that most couples take for granted were denied to us.