How does ESN facilitate interpersonal communication?

“Your Facebook or mine? Dating in the Digital Age”  (Sarah Bahari, Fort Worth Star Telegram; NDN, 4/6/13, 9D)

Much has been postulated and written about the generational characteristics of millennials (young adults born after 1980, ages 21-31) in America.

With respect to social networking, it has become the norm for millennials to meet and get to know one another through a series of texts, Facebook posts and Skype conversations.

According to Lauren Frock, 20, a student at the University of North Texas, “Most of the time, the first steps of dating or hanging out are made through Facebook or texting. Asking someone out over text is a lot easier than doing so in person or on the phone. There’s much less pressure.”

Today’s twenty-somethings navigate the tricky terrain of courtship through texts, Facebook, location check-ins and informal hangouts. Love letters appear to be a thing of the past. Even emails seem old-school now “You email your professors,“ Frock says “Not your boyfriend.”

Changes in technology have given way to a whole new set of rules and dating dilemmas, sometimes leaving young people scrambling for answers. In the book, “Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating” (2012), instruction was offered for women on how long they should wait to respond to a text message and whether they should initiate Facebook friendships or wait for men to take the initiative. Even AARP has tips: “The first rule of digital dating is that there are no rules.”

Julie Leventhal, a lecturer at the University of North Texas has taught a course on courtship and marriage and states that “past generations might feel nostalgia for the way things were but that dating in the Digital Age presents plenty of opportunities. “There is something to be said for being rejected over text. You can be more daring and take a chance.” Technology also has made maintaining long-distance relationships easier, and Leventhal has observed more students involved in such romances.

Mark Tremayne, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Texas at Arlington who studies social media, finds texting and social media so woven into young people’s lives that they can carry out their entire relationships online, sending instant messages and posting photographs on ‘Facebook.

On the other hand, online-only relationships carry the risk of deception. One such situation occurred when a Notre Dame star football player made news that he was apparently duped by someone pretending to be his cyber-girlfriend.

In effect, there is a big blur between public and private, and children and youth who have grown up with all of these tools do not always realize the difference, said Tremayne. “Nothing is as private as it once was.”

However, there is serious concern that an emerging problem when “sexting”—–texting sexually graphic photos—-becomes part of a relationship. In some instances, especially if minors are involved, sexting can lead to criminal charges.

For the most part, though—especially if played with common sense—the digital dating game is fun and exciting.