Love in the Time of Smartphones

Doesn’t take a genius to to realize that the smartphone and related mobile devices (iPads and such) have facilitated countess aspects of existence, in the process becoming indispensably useful for a whole lotta people. Comparisons to sliced bread may be warranted. In terms of things amorous, from looking for a mate to keeping in touch with the love of your life when you’re apart, smartphones and their extensive ecosystem of apps have had a tremendous and, in my opinion, enormously positive impact.

Dating-related apps, from mobile extensions of web-based platforms like, eHarmony, and Plenty of Fish to mobile-only or -centric services like Tinder and Zoosk, make the process of finding a mate convenient, ultra portable, and conceivably “always on.” And once you’ve found that special someone, options for staying connected abound in the mobile universe.

In the early stages of our togetherness, my soulmate, Lien, and I unquestionably leveraged the power, convenience, flexibility, and privacy of our smartphones to accelerate our already quickly deepening relationship.

First and foremost, a general admonishment: don’t use smartphones/apps/etc. as a substitute for more intimate types of communication. Even when–especially when!–what you have to communicate is difficult, emotionally loaded, etc.

Ranking the types of communication, the best is in-person, obviously. Nothing, nothing, nothing can or ever will surpass the connectedness of communicating when you’re physically together. One notch down would be talking on the phone (including video chatting via FaceTime, Skype, etc.), and another step down from phone/video chats would be messaging and other communication-related apps.

Messaging apps, including standard text messaging, are fantastic ways to stay in touch when things like work/etc. keep you apart. Via these handy tools, you can send messages like this to your soulmate:

Hey, Beautiful!  Hope you’re having a great day!  Came across this quote and it made me smile: “Someday, someone might love you in a way you’ve always wanted.  If that someday was yesterday, LEARN; if that someday is tomorrow, HOPE; if that someday is today, CHERISH.”

In fact, I sent the above to Lien. At least I thought I did. Actually, in my first-ever text-messaging misfire, I accidentally sent it to–wait for it–my ex wife! D’oh! I realized my boneheaded mistake the moment I pressed the “send” key in the iPhone’s Messages app. And believe me, for a split second I seriously considered snapping my phone in half to prevent the misfire from landing in my ex’s Messages inbox!

She and I have been divorced for going on twelve years now, and fortunately we have a very amicable relationship that revolves around our wonderful teenage daughter, so I wasn’t deeply concerned that my misfire would have a negative impact on our important post-relationship relationship. But at that point, since it was rather early on in my relationship with Lien, neither my daughter nor my ex were aware I was seriously dating someone.

Fortunately, my ex chose to focus on the humor of the situation. As somewhat of a perfectionist, though, the fact that I’d committed such a blunder didn’t sit well with me. I mean, how fucking hard is it to look to the top of your messaging window to make sure you’re sending your message to the person you want to send it to before you send it? Sheesh.

Yet I’m sure virtually everyone who packs a smartphone has misfired a text message at some point. It’s easy to do. You’re thinking of the person you want to message, open the messaging app, where there’s usually an ongoing thread open already, type out your thought, hit “send,” and–oh, shit!! If you realize your mistake during/immediately after the sending process, that is.  To me, that’s the less, well, bad type of misfire. The other, and in my opinion worse type being when the unintended recipient alerts you to your mistake.

At any rate, I was hellbent on not making that mistake twice, at least not with potentially intensely personal, intimate, sometimes risqué messages. I figured there had to be other messaging apps out there and, after some research and field trials, suggested to Lien that we use only Kik to communicate via IM. I had one contact in Kik, and so did she. The chances of a misfire (assuming, of course, we remembered to open Kik instead of Messages): zero. Nada.

Pretty quickly we realized that the particular app we chose, Kik, (not to sound like an advertorial for Kik) offers some cool features that Apple’s Messages app doesn’t. Like the ability to send finger-drawn sketches, and a vast, searchable database of sendable images and GIFs.


The visual component offered ways to add humor, tenderness and, occasionally, a perfect non-written way of communicating thoughts and feelings. So what started out as a mechanism to preempt the embarrassment of text-message misfires quickly ended up being an unexpected enhancement to our overall communication, boosting our connectedness when work and our other responsibilities prevented us from being together.

I sent Lien this unabashedly romantic “on bent knee” image a few months into our relationship, and it was received with with the heartlifting reply: I accept! By the way, the willingness to put yourself out there expressively, with something akin to a child’s free spiritedness and unwillingness to see anything other than the desired outcome, is a distinct hallmark of True Love–when that dynamic is happening in both directions, that is.

Lemme tell ya, it’s a pretty freakin’ awesome thing to be in your late 40s and be utterly excited about the process of creating and sending your beloved a heartfelt, finger-drawn sketch professing your genuine feelings. I recommend doing everything you possibly can to be in that position, if you’re not already there.

Needless to say, I did a figurative quintuple backflip when, shortly after I’d sent her the “on bent knee” sketch and she accepted my proffered heart, she sent me this “holding hands” sketch. It resonated for me on many levels, including the detail of the yellow dress, as she was wearing and looked absolutely stellar in a fantastic yellow dress the very first time we saw each other. 

Kik works well for me and Lien, but there are lots of other apps like it out there, including but hardly limited to What’s App, Viber, WeChat, Skype, ooVoo, and MessageMe.

Some of these offer free voice chatting in addition to instant messaging, synchronization with computers, which is a boon for anyone who spends a good chunk of the day on a computer and does better typing on a full-size keyboard than the tiny digital tiles comprising most smartphone keypads these days. Each of these apps has has its own look, feel, and twists on basic functionality.

Beyond the spectrum of apps that are more related to identifying a mate and facilitating your relationship via enhanced ways to communicate directly, there are turn-based asynchronous games like Words With Friends, Draw Something, Letterpress, SongPop, and more that provide fun and competition-oriented ways to stay connected.

I feel this post would be incomplete if I didn’t mention what some might consider the negative side of the enhanced connectedness afforded by smartphones, namely the facilitation of what I’ll call extra-relationship romantic/sexual activities. While there’s no doubt that folks can and do use smartphones and other mobile devices in ways that cause distress for their wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc., my feeling is that it’s wrongheaded to label these activities inherently “bad.” After all, it’s not the smartphone that caused whatever problems a given person has in their relationship that makes them look outside of it for…whatever it is they’re not getting from said relationship, is it?

And, ultimately, since the potential for a relationship characterized by infidelity to represent Everything to both parties is slight, in one sense technology that could expedite the end of a non-Everything relationship and afford both parties another shot at finding their respective Everythings with other people ultimately can only be considered beneficial.

Bottom line: smartphones and a profusion of apps, many if not most available for free, are kick-ass tools to help you connect with that special someone and enhance your togetherness as your relationship develops and flourishes. If you’re dating with an eye toward finding your relationship Everything–or if you’re fortunate enough to be enjoying your Everything–and don’t yet have a smartphone, definitely consider getting one.  If you’ve got one already, I wholeheartedly encourage you to look into apps that could empower you in your quest and enrich your connectedness.

Hard to see how you and your future (our current) beloved wouldn’t benefit.