She ended the relationship, but remains unrepentant about deploying surveillance technology against her mate

She ended the relationship, but remains unrepentant about deploying surveillance technology against her mate

In sum, transparency does not guarantee trust. It can, in fact, prove effective at eroding it – especially when the expectation of transparency and the available technological tools nudge the suspicious to engage in more invasive forms of investigation or surveillance. One woman I interviewed, who asked that her name not be revealed, was suspicious that her live-in boyfriend of two years was unfaithful when her own frequent business trips took her away from home. Unwilling to confront him directly with her doubts, she turned to a technological solution. Unbeknownst to him, she installed a popular brand of “spyware” on his computer, which recorded every keystroke he made and took snapshots of his screen every three minutes – information that the program then e-mailed to her for inspection. “My suspicions were founded,” she said, although the revelation was hardly good news. “He was spending hours online looking at porn, and going to ‘hook-up’ chatrooms seeking sex with strangers. I even tracked his ATM withdrawals to locations near his scheduled meetings with other women.”

Considering the amount of information she could find out about her partner by merely surfing the Internet, she rationalized her use of spyware as just one more tool – if a slightly more invasive one – at the disposal of those seeking information about another person. As our technologies give us ever-greater power to uncover more about each other, demand for transparency rises, and our expectations of privacy decline.

That online dating isn’t so different from regular dating

The other destructive tendency our technologies encourage is over-sharing – that is, revealing too much, too quickly, in the hope of connecting to another person. The opportunities for instant communication are so ubiquitous – e-mail, instant messaging, chatrooms, cell phones, Palm Pilots, BlackBerrys, and the like – that the notion of making ourselves unavailable to anyone is unheard of, and constant access a near-requirement. As a result, the multitude of outlets for expressing ourselves has allowed the level of idle chatter to reach a depressing din. The inevitable result is a repeal of the reticence necessary for fostering successful relationships in the long term. Information about another person is best revealed a bit at a time, in a give-and-take exchange, not in a rush of overexposed feeling.

One dating blogger, who calls himself Quigley, keeps a dreary tally of his many unsuccessful attempts to meet women, peppering his diary with adolescent observations about women he sees on television

Perhaps the best example of this tendency is reality TV and its spawn. Programs like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, as well as pseudo-documentary shows such as A Dating Story (and A Wedding Story and A Baby Story) on The Learning Channel, transform the longings of the human heart into top Nielsen ratings by encouraging the lovelorn to discuss in depth and at length every feeling they have, every moment they have it, as the cameras roll. Romances begin, blossom, and occasionally end in the space of half an hour, and audiences – privy to even the most excruciatingly staged expressions of love and devotion – nevertheless gain the illusion of having seen “real” examples of dating, wedding, or marriage.

On the Internet, dating blogs offer a similar sophomoric voyeurism. Another dating blogger, who describes herself as an “attractive 35-year old,” writes “A Day in the Life of Jane,” a dating diary about her online dating travails. Reflecting on one of her early experiences, she writes: “But what did I learn from Owen? It has its pros and cons: Pros – you learn a lot more about a person much more quickly, that a person isn’t always what they seem or what you believe them to be, that you have to be really honest with yourself and the person you are communicating with; Cons – uh, same as the pros!”

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