There was a time in the not-so-distant past when digital media pundits wondered whether Snapchat would ever be a successful business because of its association with sexting. Snapchat’s disappearing message feature gave the perception that it was a sext den, so brands would be leery of advertising on the platform.
That specific concern quickly fell by the wayside, and Snapchat is now a publicly traded company with a market value of more than $23 billion. And generally speaking, sexting panic seems overblown, especially in light of the release of a new study from North Carolina State University.
Its main finding: There’s no proof that sexting actually leads to having more actual sex.
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 15 other studies on sexting, and found the correlation between sending sexts and subsequent sexual behavior is “weak.” And there’s zero evidence sexting affected sexual behavior at all.
“Sexting does not appear to pose a public health threat to America’s youth — so don’t panic,” says Andrew Binder, a professor of communication at N.C. State, in a release about the study, which he co-authored.
If there is one slightly troubling aspect to this study, though, it’s that it’s part of a growing body of evidence that digital love and romance are replacing our appetites for IRL relationships.
Anyone who’s ever used a dating app is intimately familiar with the abundance of lurkers on those services—people content to endlessly swipe through people’s profiles, make matches and flirt via text, but with no intention of transitioning those connections into in-person dates.
And on the off-chance a Tinder connection does materialize into a date, there’s a good chance the person will cut off all communication shortly thereafter, or that you’ll form one of those digital-only relationships where you text each other at irregular intervals, maintaining the flimsiest of connections.
That said, it’s not all that surprising. All aspects of our lives are increasingly taking place in the digital sphere, so it only stands to reason that our sex and dating lives would follow the same trend. What’s interesting is how one-directional this relationship seems to be. Our physical lives are moving online, but rarely does our digital behavior manifest itself in the real world.