The Tender Side of Tech

Whether it’s a brother using a laptop to “blow out” birthday candles or a long-distance couple sharing a weekly virtual date, people are using technology in surprising new ways to nurture and share their bonds of love.

GIF04-Reinventing-Rituals-v05-250pxIn a study of how technology is reinventing rituals for people around the world, Facebook IQ commissioned insight and innovation experts Crowd DNA to consult experts, interview influencers and survey people in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and the US (data are on average across the countries). In this second post in the Tech Transformations series, we focus on how technology is helping people create new and different expressions of love.

We learned that these days, it matters less where we are physically—at the tap of a button, we can send a Valentine over Instagram, give a virtual hug over video chat and post a #tbt photo on Facebook. There truly is a tender side of tech.

 

ODA is the new PDA

Online displays of affection are the new public displays of affection.

While online proclamations of love aren’t new, demonstrations of coupledom are becoming more and more creative, affecting everything from a first date to the “in a relationship” Facebook profile update. And with the help of digital love hacks, couple culture has taken a new twist around the world.

For long-distance relationships, online displays of affection can be necessary to keep the flame alive. One couple we talked to uses Instagram to post photos of where they are at the same time, highlighting the differences between life in their respective cities, New York and Seoul. Even though they’re thousands of miles apart, they’re able to share moments of their day not only with each other but also with their followers.

Long-distance couples also use messaging apps to stay in touch. As one girlfriend explained, “The last time I saw my boyfriend, we shared [an egg-shaped candy with] two small duckling figures. Mine was dubbed Squeak, his is Quackers. We take photos of our respective figurines in various locations … and send them to each other via private WhatsApp or Messenger.”

 

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These couples aren’t alone—an average of 67% of people surveyed in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and the US agree that the Internet has made long-distance relationships a lot easier. That number jumps to 82% for people surveyed in Nigeria.

 

All you need is love … and tech

Collectively, over half of the people we talked to in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and the US use online dating websites or apps, and 1 in 5 turn to online dating regularly. As a Millennial male in Brooklyn, US, put it, “I would venture to say in 10 years a solid chunk of marriages will have originated [from online dating]. It takes a lot of awkwardness out of just going up to someone you don’t know and striking a conversation.”

Indeed, 61% of surveyed online daters in each country say dating websites and apps have made it easier to find compatible dates. And 45% of survey respondents agree that people are more likely to find a partner online than offline.

 

Home is where the wifi is

In addition to shifting the ways people express and search for love, technology is helping keep family and friendship bonds strong.

The Internet now serves as homebase for family and friends who are spread across the globe or living across town. On average, over half of people surveyed in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and the US agree the Internet allows them to feel at home wherever they are.

We see this come to life through live broadcast eating channels in Seoul—in which people’s family, friends and followers can “join” them as they eat a meal—and virtual birthday parties over video chat.

 

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Reinventing_Rituals_PullquoteSwapping memories and embarrassing #tbt images from the past, once a Millennial thing, has also caught on as a way for people of all generations to maintain relationships. We saw keywords associated with long-term friendship (for example, “best friends,” “friends for life,” “like old times,” “tbt” and “throwback Thursday”) grow at an average rate of 134% in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and the US.1 And we see this trend growing fastest for people ages 65+, at a rate of 185%.1

 

Pic or it didn’t happen

If something isn’t shared online, did it happen in real life?

One Instagrammer in London told us about a birthday card she recently mailed to her father. But she didn’t just send it through the post—she also felt compelled to digitally document the experience by sending a picture of it to her friends.

 

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The gap between what happens online and what happens offline is shrinking. Collectively, more than half of people surveyed in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and the US say they enjoy their online interactions with friends and family members just as much as their real-life interactions.

 

What it means for marketers

What should marketers do now that messaging is the new phone call, mobile is the new family hearth or singles bar and video chat is the new face-to-face?

Celebrate relationships in creative ways: People are increasingly going online to fulfill the human want and need to connect with everyone from their loved ones to new romantic interests and old acquaintances. Brands should think creatively about ways to highlight and celebrate meaningful moments in people’s relationships.

Adapt Millennial trends for older generations: Millennial behavior isn’t just for Millennials anymore, especially online. From habits to hashtags, identifying trends popular with Millennials can help brands lead the adaptation for Gen Xers and Boomers.

Connect in a new online marketplace: As more and more rituals are reinvented online, new marketplaces will spring to life. Brands can seize these opportunities by strategically thinking about how their own products and services can become a part of such marketplaces.

 

1 Facebook internal data for people ages 18+ in NG, SK, UK and US, Sep 2014–Aug 2015 (accessed Nov 2015). Growth lines for each topic are normalized for platform growth and are based on keywords identified in the “Tech Transformations Study” by Crowd DNA.
Source unless otherwise specified: “Tech Transformations Study” by Crowd DNA (a Facebook-commissioned study of people ages 18–64 in NG, UK and US and and ages 20–64 in KR), Oct–Nov 2015. This study included interviews with 11 experts, 60 qualitative participants and 4,000 online survey respondents. Data are on average across all countries. Unless  noted, findings were consistent across all markets.