Using Modern Technology To Keep In Touch With Back Burners: An Investment Model Analysis

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Relationship research and theory recognizes that individuals continue to monitor the availability of their romantic/sexual prospects whether or not they are already in a committed relationship. We use the term back burner to describe a desired potential or continuing romantic/sexual partner with whom one communicates, but to whom one is not exclusively committed. Although communication with back burners is not new, modern technology affords novel channels (e.g., social networking applications and text messaging) that individuals are using to connect with back burners. A survey study (N = 374) explored whether people used technology to communicate with back burners, as well as relationships between back burner contacts and investment model variables (Rusbult, 1980). Results indicated that back burner activity through electronic channels was common, men reported more back burners than women, and that number of back burners associated positively with quality of alternatives. For those in committed relationships, no relationships were observed between back burner activity and commitment to or investment in the relationship. Implications and limitations are discussed.