Roehampton Professor joins Radio 4 discussion on how smartphones impact relationships

  • Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Professor Mark McCormack joined ‘Thinking Allowed’ to talk about his research on tech and relationships

Image - Roehampton Professor joins Radio 4 discussion on how smartphones impact relationships

Mark McCormack, Professor of Sociology at the University of Roehampton, has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thinking Allowed’ to talk about how smartphones are increasingly central to contemporary romantic relationships.

In the interview, Professor McCormack uses his research findings to detail both the positive and negative impact smartphones can have on modern day dating and relationships. The tension with smartphones is that they draw couples together when they are apart, but push them apart when they are together.

According to the research, the positive effect of smartphones is recognised at the start and early stages of relationships. They are largely utilised to keep people in touch and ‘check in’, particularly if couples aren’t living together or have long days at work. It was also noted that they help foster conversation due to easy access to information, and also assist those who are dating sound out whether their potential partner is right for them due to the frequency of text conversations in between in-person dates. 

However, participants also noted that it was akin to ‘the third person in our marriage’, and smartphones were also an impediment to having conversations or social time together as time went on. There were also mentions of jealousy, unexpectedly seeing your partner online and the awareness that messages can be deleted.

Participant responses insinuate that the cost benefit analysis of smartphones on relationships is finely balanced, and that this balance, along with the presence of ‘technoference’, may change as relationships enter different stages.

Professor McCormack’s research, conducted with Dr. M.F Ogilvie from Southern Connecticut State University is entitled ‘Keeping Couples Together When Apart, and Driving Them Apart When Together: Exploring the Impact of Smartphones on Relationships in the UK’, and can be found as a chapter in the book ‘Couple Relationships in a Global Context’.

You can listen to Professor McCormack’s interview on Radio 4’s ‘Thinking Allowed’ by clicking here.