A New Study Reveals the Best Ways to Indicate Romantic Commitment Online

How do you know that your partner is committed to your relationship based on social media communication? Research findings indicate that the strongest signs of romantic commitment on social media are actions that deliberately oppose engaging with appealing alternatives.

Social Media Can Be Beneficial and Detrimental to Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships have changed significantly because of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and multiple dating apps. They give people access to an abundance of information about past and potential romantic partners with whom they are in contact. This can be good or bad.

On the one hand, these online platforms can help people stay in touch. On the other hand, these online platforms can also connect individuals with attractive partners, potentially causing feelings of jealousy and anxiety. These possibilities on social media make individuals with high anxiety and an insecure attachment style especially vulnerable. This ambiguous nature of social media can make these online apps both beneficial and detrimental.

Researchers are interested in knowing what kinds of online behaviors might help anxious people deal with these psychological threats and successfully maintain relationships.

A Study Examined the Impact of Social Media Behaviors on Romantic Commitment

According to a recent study, certain social media behaviors, particularly for those with high levels of attachment anxiety, can improve the stability of their relationships. The results show that actions that actively resist interactions with alluring alternatives are the best indicators of romantic commitment on social media.

Alexandra E. Black, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States, conducted two studies on the topic. She investigated how committed individuals perceive their partners’ social media activities, as well as how these activities influence feelings of relationship security and satisfaction.

The author published the results of these studies in her article “Responding to threatening online alternatives: Perceiving the partner’s commitment through their social media behaviors” in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Why The Study Is Interesting

The author of the article Alexandra Black, a postdoctoral scholar at the Social Connection and Positive Psychology Lab at Arizona State University, said,

“I have been interested in how people perceive threats to their romantic relationships for quite some time, but I wanted to apply it to today’s current dating world with the use of social media and dating apps.”

Alexandra Black

She has been interested in knowing what a romantic partner’s commitment level is when they are interacting with attractive others. The advent of social media has complicated these types of interactions:

“With physically attractive people readily available on social media sites like Instagram and TikTok, it can be difficult for people to feel satisfied and committed in their relationships.”

Alexandra Black

As Alexandra commented,

“I wanted to answer the question of what a romantic partner can do that signals they are committed to help ease the other person’s anxiety and allow them to feel more secure in their relationship.”

How the Researcher Conducted the Studies

The research comprised several phases, encompassing two pilot studies and two primary experiments.

In the initial pilot study, the author asked 240 undergraduate students to compile a list of online behaviors that indicate commitment in a relationship. This led to the initial identification of 81 behaviors.

However, after conducting a second pilot study with 149 undergraduate participants, the researcher reduced the list to 24 behaviors based on ratings of their likelihood and perceived commitment.

The First Experiment Showed

In the first experiment, a total of 900 individuals were randomly allocated to assess vignettes in which potential partners either exhibited or did not exhibit behaviors that indicate commitment. Subsequently, the participants assessed the perceived degree of dedication exhibited by their partner. The following behaviors were found to be the most effective in conveying commitment: removing dating applications, disregarding flirtatious messages, indicating relationship status, and unfollowing potential rivals.

As Alexandra Black noted,

“If you are trying to determine if someone you’ve just started dating is committed to you, pay attention to how they interact with attractive people on social media, Are they still responding to flirtatious DMs? Have they deleted their dating apps? These behaviors can signal important information about how your partner views your relationship.”

PsyPost by Eric W. Dolan

The Second Experiment Revealed

The second experiment examined these behaviors in a controlled experimental environment. The researcher gave participants a hypothetical situation in which they found out that their partner was engaging in intimate interactions with an attractive alternative on social media.

Participants were subsequently allocated at random to read either

  • a high-commitment response from their partner (such as explicitly informing the alternative person that they were in a committed relationship and unfollowing them) or
  • a neutral response (such as engaging in a conversation about a humorous video).

The researchers assessed the participants’ levels of relationship security and satisfaction both before and after implementing these manipulations.

The author discovered that individuals who experience high attachment anxiety reported notably elevated levels of unease, concern, and envy when envisioning their partner engaging with an appealing alternative on social media. This verifies that such situations are especially troubling for individuals with anxiety.

Remarkably, the partner’s display of strong commitment on social media effectively heightened the perception of partner commitment and reduced the perception of alternative options, irrespective of the participant’s attachment style.

However, these behaviors did not substantially improve feelings of security or relationship satisfaction for individuals with anxiety, as initially predicted. This implies that although explicit signals of commitment are significant, they may not be enough to completely alleviate the profound insecurities and fears linked to attachment anxiety.

As the author finally concluded,

“I was surprised that it is not when a partner posts about you or likes your content that most impacts feelings of commitment. Instead, it matters more when a partner is actively shutting down threats from attractive people. It appears, at least from my work, that effective commitment expressions on social media rely less on a presence of the positive and instead require an absence of the negative.”

Alexandra Black

Polyamory Appears to Be a New Form of Love

There is some evidence that polyamory appears to be a novel alternative to traditional monogamous romantic love. Polyamory is on the rise in many modern societies. Why so?

Let’s consider what Americans think about polyamory and polygamy.

What Is Polyamory and Why?

Polyamory refers to the practice of willingly and openly engaging in relationships with more than one romantic partner at the same time, with the full awareness and consent of all parties involved.

Approximately 55% of Americans express a preference for exclusive monogamy in their relationships, while a significant number of adults are inclined towards various forms of non-monogamy.

Nevertheless, according to a YouGov survey from February 2023, among American adults, 34% say they would prefer some type of relationship other than complete monogamy if given the choice. It is especially evident among people under the age of 45.

A significant number of Americans have already engaged in various forms of non-monogamy, either with the explicit agreement of their main partner or without it.

Monogamy, Polyamory, or Polygamy? Any Alternatives?

Many Americans have already engaged in some type of alternative to monogamy, whether that took place with the consent of their primary partner or not.

Among those respondents, 12% of Americans said that they have been involved in sexual activity with someone other than their primary partner with their primary partner’s consent, while 20% of adults did so without the consent of their main partner. In both cases, men are more likely than women to have had sexual encounters outside of their relationship.

About 67% of Americans indicated that they would not consent if their partner expressed a desire to participate in sexual activities with another person. However, approximately 20% of Americans indicate that their level of comfort is contingent upon the circumstances, while a mere 5% express acceptance of such a polyamory scenario.

Shall We Accept Polygamy?

Polygamy refers to the practice of having more than one spouse simultaneously. It seems similar to polyamory, yet polygamy is more legal than a relational term. According to the YouGov survey from February 2023, Americans consider polygamy to be the least acceptable. A majority of Americans, specifically 68%, are against the legalization of polygamy. However, individuals between the ages of 18 and 29, with a percentage of 52%, are comparatively less inclined to oppose it.

While the majority of Americans oppose the legalization of polygamy, approximately half of them either believe that it will be legalized within the next 50 years (18%) or are unsure about its future (30%). Approximately 52% of respondents believe that it will not be legalized within the next five decades.

How to Make an Online Dating Profile Appealing: New Research

The fact that the first dating websites appeared only in the 1990s might seem surprising. However, dating websites have developed significantly over the last three decades. This development had a significant impact on how partners met, fell in love, and developed their relationships. These days, over one-third of marriages start online. But this data differs depending on the culture.

Modern online-mediated cultures of relationships have changed intimate practices in online dating apps.

Research findings have shown the ambiguities and opportunities men and women experience using dating apps.

One of the challenging questions is how to create an attractive online dating profile.

Most people who are looking for love online will fill out their profiles with all the interesting things about themselves that make them stand out. They have a dog, three kids, or an iguana. On the weekends, they paraglide and do hot yoga, or something like this.

Sometimes, though, they forget to say what they want to know about a potential partner. They, however, are not always aware that others are not less but may be more interested “to be known” than “to know them as their partner.”

New Research on Dating Profiles Shows

A recent series of experiments conducted by Juliana Schroeder, Professor of Management Philosophy & Values at Berkeley Haas, and Ayelet Fishbach, Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, showed that the most important thing online dating users should keep in mind is that people are more satisfied when they feel like “they are known,”  rather than when they feel like “they know the other person.

Juliana Schroeder and Ayelet Fishbach recruited a group of research assistants to analyze dating profiles from Match.com and Coffee Meets Bagel. According to the information provided in the profiles, more than 50% of the writers were rated as desiring recognition from a potential partner, whereas only around 20% expressed a wish to know their potential partner.

Subsequently, the researchers requested a group of many online participants to compose their own profiles, with the option to emphasize being known or getting to know the other person. Then, they surveyed an additional 250 individuals to evaluate these profiles based on “how much they found them appealing and how much they would potentially want to contact them” using a rating system ranging from 1 to 7. Thus, their ratings evaluated the level of attractiveness and the likelihood of wanting to initiate contact with the individuals in the profiles.

What Do People Look for in Dating Profiles?

Consistent with their previous findings, Schroeder and Fishbach discovered that the raters exhibited a preference for the profile authors who placed emphasis on their desire to understand the other person.

These findings could provide valuable guidance for individuals seeking to enhance their attractiveness on a dating platform.

“What they want to be doing is saying, ‘I really care about you, and I’m going to get to know you and be there for you and listen to you and be a great partner,”

Schroeder says.

That makes sense, Schroeder says, adding credence to the notion that the phenomenon of a parent-child relationship is primarily about support.

 “It’s the one relationship where it’s very clear the parent needs to be supporting the child.”

A New Perspective for This Research

Schroeder and Fishbach’s next research task is to explore how individuals can redirect their attention towards utilizing their understanding of others to genuinely make them feel recognized. Then, it’s likely that experiencing a sense of being recognized may enhance both partners’ satisfaction with their relationships.

This positive perspective may also work in a workplace context, improving relationships with coworkers.

“To develop relationships with work colleagues, you might think not just about personal knowledge but also what are people’s habits and how they like to work,”

Schoeder says.

“While this was beyond the scope of our study, it’s possible that stronger workplace relationships could ultimately make a difference in terms of people’s satisfaction with their jobs.”