Romance rocked by recession, says Microsoft

13 Feb 2009

Romance isn’t dead – it’s just gone online! A study into romance during a recession reveals that 18pc of people believe the credit crunch will affect their Valentine celebrations this year, and that Cupid’s arrow will miss 13 million Europeans due to money worries.

21st-century love has found its home in the digital world with 72pc of shy seducers and new-age Casanovas in Ireland admitting they would rather ‘type it than talk it’ on Instant Messenger (IM) this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is traditionally a time to splash some cash, but with consumers tightening their belts this year, romance may be in for a rocky ride.

Financial pressures can take their toll on relationships – while 82pc of people claim they never argue about money, one in 10 (11pc) have recently broken up or gotten divorced due to financial pressures, and 8pc are seeking debt counselling.

Sadly, Cupid’s arrow is set to miss 13 million Europeans (5pc) who cannot afford to celebrate Valentine’s Day at all this year, and a further one in 10 will be forced to make cutbacks as households rein in their spending to weather the economic downturn.

Less than half (47pc) of Irish people will celebrate Valentine’s Day as they usually would this year.

Ireland will spend less than any other European country on their Valentine this year – on average only €16. However, this has no bearing on the credit crunch, as it’s the same as they spent last year.

Reflecting its growing role as a social-networking and communications tool, the internet is now the second most popular way of meeting new people, according to the research, with nearly a third (28pc) of Irish people agreeing this is the best way to meet new love interests.

The internet is second only to meeting ‘through friends’ (38pc), which remains the universal favourite.

Internet romance is growing rapidly in popularity. Turkey, Sweden and South Africa have the largest number of online lovers with more than four in 10 people having found love on the internet, compared to 33pc of Irish people.

Overall, approximately 67 million people (33pc) across EMEA have found love online, with 5 million relationships (7pc) leading to a stable marriage, and a further 19 million (28pc) resulting in long-term romantic partnerships.

Over a third (37pc) of cyber couples have had short-lived love stories but remained good friends. Only 2pc of internet relationships have resulted in a divorce.

More than half (55pc) of Europeans and 59pc of people in Ireland have used instant messenger to flirt with someone.

Instant flirting by Messenger is particularly prolific in northern European countries like Norway (84pc), Netherlands (82pc) and Sweden (71pc). While Arabia (35pc), Belgium (36pc), Spain (39pc) and Italy (42pc) are the least ‘virtually flirtatious’.

Ken O’Byrne, head of corporate marketing at, Microsoft Ireland, commented: “Windows Live Messenger is becoming more and more popular because it’s an easy, free and fun way to communicate. It’s much more personal than email because the conversation is live – and the research released today shows that as we become even more entrenched in our digital lives and make better use of instant messaging, it’s becoming a real alternative to either real or telephone conversations.

“Recently, we’ve also seen more and more people using video calls on IM to make communications even more personal than pure text exchange. It is now possible to carry on a long-distance romance using the video function, or keeping the romance alive with a quick, flirty text to a long-term love. So this Valentine’s Day, if you don’t quite have the nerve to say it in person, Windows Live Message it!”

Some 41pc of Irish respondents to the survey said they preferred ‘wooing with their fingers’ on instant messenger because it was less intimidating than face-to-face, while almost a quarter favour creating flirty responses online because it gives them more time to be creative.

“Economic instability often puts pressure on relationships, and this is especially true at crunch times such as Valentine’s Day,” said Jean Smith, a relationships expert.

“It is commonly accepted that the key to maintaining good relationships is a good and honest dialogue. Services such as Windows Live Messenger provide an easy-to-use, and often less embarrassing, platform through which people can open up to each other.

“Most people find it easier to flirt or to profess their love in an online environment, as it’s much less intimidating. It’s not unusual for shy people to come out of their shell and become more honest and forthcoming when they realise they are not in a face-to-face situation,” the relationships expert said.

By John Kennedy