In a series of focus groups conducted by the Pew Research Center online and in cities across the U.S., over 100 teens shared with us their personal experiences with social media and romantic relationships. These are some of the key themes and responses we heard during these data-gathering sessions.
Social Media is the New Front Porch Swing
During the focus groups, technology – and especially social media – often was described as an integral part of the courting process for teens. Half of all teens (50%) have let someone know they were interested in them romantically by friending them on Facebook or another social media site, and 47% have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.
Teens also spoke about social media as an information-gathering tool that helps them find out all sorts of information about a potential partner, like whether they are dating someone or not.
Many teens in our focus groups described flirting with a crush by liking their photos or posting a comment on their social media profile. These interactions have their own unwritten – but widely understood – rules. Everything from one’s choice of emoji to the spelling of the word “hey” can carry a deeper meaning.
Text messaging also is a common way for teens to flirt and express romantic interest. But for all the advantages digital communication can offer, a number of teens in these focus groups said they are more at ease when talking to the object of their affection face to face.