1. The Evils of Facebook:
Not surprisingly, a lot of articles, blogs, and discussions revolved around relationships and the Internet. The biggest of these is about Facebook. One of them that gained a lot of traction early in the year was an article put out by Slate magazine: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/01/the_antisocial_network.html. The article highlighted the fact that Facebook may be making some people depressed and sad. It even spawned a whole trend on twitter with the hashtag #sadbook. Basically tweets highlighted some of the pathetic things that people do on Facebook. Check out this article for a couple of examples: http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/01/does_facebook_make_you_sad_joi.html.
Beside the whole #sadbook twitter trend, there have been numerous other studies looking at the negative effects of Facebook, including, for example this study published by Mashable (http://mashable.com/2011/03/30/women-facebook-survey/) which found that 84% of respondents who were mostly women, were annoyed at one time or another by the posts from their Facebook connections. Or another study here: http://www.newser.com/story/109676/20-of-your-facebook-friends-are-strangers.html which reports that only 20% of your "friends" are actually your friends. There are many other examples, but they all illustrative the growing destructive/isolating nature of Facebook.
Plus there have a ton of infographics all around Facebook, who uses it, and how it is used. Here is one by Mashable, which looks at Facebook and its effect on relationships: http://mashable.com/2011/05/31/facebook-relationships/. Here is another one that is a compilation of a variety of infographics: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/21610/14-Fantastic-New-Facebook-Infographics-in-2011.aspx
2. Online dating:
There were many, many articles that talked about how to do online dating, how successful online dating is, and the effect of online dating. I won't bother to list those as I'm sure a simple Google search will easily spit out hundreds of articles for you. This year, The New Yorker did a good job tracing the historical development of dating websites: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/04/110704fa_fact_paumgarten?currentPage=all.
I did want to highlight a couple ones that aren't your typical, run-of-the-mill online dating advice articles. The first one was done by OkCupid, which used data from their dating website to generate some interesting pieces of information, which they called OkTrends. This one, for example, highlights 4 big myths about profile pictures: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-4-big-myths-of-profile-pictures/. I like their blogs because it uses a lot of data to actually show what works and doesn't work on their dating site, and as they found out, some of what we assume to be true is often not. The other one was an article that interviewed AshleyMadison's website CEO, Noel Biderman - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jill-brooke/ashleymadisons-ceo-thinks_b_828012.html. The Ashley Madison website is a site where married people can hook up and have an affair with other married people. They have had some steamy ads on the TV in the past. What's interesting about this article is that he suggests that his website actually saves marriages. Read it and see if you agree with his logic.
Then there are a lot of new dating websites that try to approach online dating from new and interesting angles. For example here is one that matches you with people who look just like you: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/03/08/want-to-date-your-doppelganger-theres-a-site-for-that/. Here is another dating website for people who can't or don't want to have sexual intercourse: http://healthland.time.com/2011/08/18/dating-site-for-people-who-cant-have-sex-takes-off/
3. Growing non-marriage trend:
There were a number of articles talking about the growing trend of unmarried, live-in couples. Here's a good synopsis provided by the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/23/number-of-unmarried-livei_n_736828.html. There is the statistical side of the story, which looks at the demographic numbers and how they are changing in modern times. But there are also a number of articles that are talking about people's frustration with the whole dating and relationship scene. Here are a couple examples: The biggest one recently is an article that came out recently in The Atlantic that talks about choosing to remain single: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/11/all-the-single-ladies/8654/?single_page=true. She talks about the gradual progress, through a series of life events that have led to her the conclusion that it might make sense to remain single instead of blindly pursuing a relationship because it is expected by society. Here is another article that talks about the troubles with dating and proposes that we "undate" instead: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kira-sabin/over-dating-join-the-unda_b_810436.html. Alternatively, an article focusing on the perspective from men, look at how young men have the upper hand in the sexual economy, because of the increased availability of casual sex partners and pornography - http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/18/men-have-upper-hand-in-sexual-economy/?npt=NP1&on.cnn=1. For women, the article argues, the available pool of high-quality, marriageable men is decreasing.
4. Changing gender roles:
I also came across a number of articles that tried to dispel long held myths of what we think men and women want in relationships. This article by USA Today (http://yourlife.usatoday.com/sex-relationships/dating/story/2011/02/Men-women-flip-the-script-in-gender-expectation/43219110/1?csp=34news&utm_source=twitterfeed) shows research findings that demonstrate that men are more interested in love, marriage, and children earlier, and women want more independence in their relationships than their mothers. The article discusses how men are quicker to fall in love and more likely than women to want children. Other articles express similar ideas, such as this one in MSNBC (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/43517490/ns/today-relationships#.TvKyuNRSSOI) which says that men are quicker to say "I love you" than women and this one in CNN ( http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/04/28/men.give.love.advice/index.html) which talks about a support website for men who are "ready and willing" to talk about love. It would be interesting to see in 2012, what are some reasons driving these changes in gender roles.
5. The effect of pornography:
There have also been a large number of articles talking about the effects of pornography on relationships and men, in particular. This article for example ( http://healthland.time.com/2011/02/09/do-men-really-bond-with-porn-spoiling-them-for-real-life-sex/) talks about how the use of porn can spoil real life sex with their partners, in part because the sex depictions in porn are usually unrealistic. Ordinary real sex becomes disappointing compared to the fireworks and whiz-bangs of porn. This other article (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201103/dating-heavy-porn-user) makes basically the same point, discussing how how people in coupling relationships prefer to watch porn instead of having sex with their partner and reasons why that might be the case.
This other article (http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2011/04/compulsive-masturbation-and-porn/?utm_source=PsychCentral&utm_medium=twitter) talks about the difference between regular and compulsive masturbation and the problems this can play out in people's lives.
6. The effects of hormones on feelings of love and relationships:
As there is growing research looking at the brain and its association to feelings of love and relationships, there have been more articles published highlighting these results. The most popular one of these is an article I saw in 2011, came out showing that expressing romantic rejection is the same as feeling that being punched in the gut: http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/28/the-pain-of-romantic-rejection-like-being-punched-in-the-gut/?xid=huffpo-direct.
Another interesting article highlighted how serotonin, a chemical in the brain, can not only alter our perception of relationships, but with our partners and with other couples (http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/14/serotonin-seems-to-skew-view-of-others-intimacy/24381.html). According to the article, the less serotonin you have, the more likely you are to rate other couples as less intimate and romantic. It begs the question, if we pumped ourselves up with serotonin, would we view others' and our relationships more positively and thus more likely to try to make it work?
Lastly, there have also been a number of articles published this year talking about the "love" brain chemical oxytocin. Oxytocin has been shown to promote feelings of love and belonging, seen most strongly with mothers and their children. However, as this study (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-love-hate-relationship) points out, it may also promote feelings of discrimination and stereotypes.
7. Loneliness in 2011
Two of the biggest news stories I've seen with regards to loneliness deal with loneliness among the elderly and also the effect of loneliness on sleep. I've bookmarked a good deal of articles looking at loneliness among the elderly and attempts to highlight this growing epidemic. Here are a couple examples: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2009324/Elderly-hit-epidemic-poverty-loneliness.html and http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/news/9047917.Shop_sit_in_to_highlight_old_age_loneliness/. It also spans different countries and cultures, as this article highlights a couple in India who committed suicide because of loneliness: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-15/ahmedabad/29545463_1_elderly-couple-vejalpur-police-suicide-note. I also blogged about Esther Rantzen who admitted publicly she was lonely and received a lot of negative feedback because of it: http://www.express.co.uk/features/view/285689/Esther-Rantzen-Admit-I-am-lonely-Friends-say-I-should-have-more-pride.
The other big series of articles looked at loneliness and how it affects our sleep: http://healthland.time.com/2011/01/27/cant-sleep-it-may-help-to-get-out-of-bed/. I thought this was interesting because I often saw a lot of loneliness tweets that talked about suffering insomnia. It seems like the two are very much related to one another and there have been quite a few articles published this year suggesting this.
8. Lonely animal stories:
On the occasion I came across a heart-breaking story of loneliness in animals. Two touching ones were of a whale and a polar bear. This article about a whale (http://gizmodo.com/5772406/the-story-of-the-lonely-whale-will-break-your-heart) who is alone and has not bonded with other whales. Her problem is that she sings at the wrong frequency so that other whales do not hear her song. So, she spends her life alone in the open waters.
The other story is of a polar bear, Gus, at the Central Park Zoo: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/opinion/sunday/03gus.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1. The story comes to a sad end when Gus loses his companion, Ida. He appeared trouble even before Ida died, but with the help of an animal psychologist was able to come around, only to have Ida die soon after. Both heart-breaking stories of animal loneliness.