Nauseated by lovey-dovey couples plastering gushy missives on each other's Facebook walls? Sick of reading all about their wedding plans on Twitter? Fear not: A new brand of social media networks is on the way, designed for couples to celebrate their love privately online.
With names like Snuggle Cloud, Kahnoodle, Tokii and HoneyDo, the websites facilitate diverse matters of the heart: Some help nudge a partner into the bedroom and give him kudos when he takes out the trash. Others let couples barter house chores for sex, straight up, while still others suggest dinner banter plucked from the current news cycle: provincial elections, anyone?
"Whereas Facebook is like party with your friends, Snuggle Cloud is like a candlelit dinner," reads the tagline for one of the unfortunately named couples' sites.
"It is a social network designed for two people," said Emily Marshall, who launched Snuggle Cloud with Kiran Gollu last November in Seattle. (An app version will launch next week.)
Targeting 18- to 36-year-olds, the site offers a handy function that compiles all of your syrupy communiqués in one place, be it e-mails, chats or text messages. There's a calendar marked with anniversaries, birthdays and other crucial dates, as well as a "couples dashboard" where pairs can post links to coveted gifts, impending nuptials, all-inclusive honeymoon deals or anything they choose. A mood meter lets pairs track and then share their rolling emotions.
Using tech to enhance face-to-face intimacy with a partner is thoroughly modern, says Andrea Syrtash, author of Cheat on your Husband (with your Husband): How to Date your Spouse, publishing next week.
"Couples have interesting ways to communicate their needs and wants, and this is a very 21st-century way to do that," Ms. Syrtash said.
She compares the sites to sexting and "e-flirting," tactics employed by cheaters and those in the early, heady days of dating, but in gross decline in longer relationships: "It can inject a little excitement into your day." Over at Kahnoodle, the buzzword is recognition. When the site launches next month, users will be able to reward each other with "kudos," little digital pats on the back doled out when their partner does something good, and then tracked weekly or monthly.
"It's all-around positive affirmation, allowing you to big up your partner for doing the things that you really appreciate. At the end of day you have this gratitude journal of all the great things that you've done together," founder Zuhairah Scott Washington said from New York.
Intended for committed couples over the age of 21, Kahnoodle lets partners administer "love taps" – like Facebook pokes, except they refer to nookie.
"If it's been a while, you can give your partner a love tap. It's a subtle hint, without making it heavy," Ms. Washington said.
Kahnoodle came out of her own desire to ensure that she and her husband "weren't a statistic on the wrong side of the divorce rate."
"He used to give me feedback about things he wished I did better and I was like, 'What do I do with this? Do I write it down in a notebook? Do I put it in my Outlook? … I thought there had to be a way for technology to help that."
Does the digital exercise unintentionally take away from face time? Not at all, Ms. Washington said: "It's about using online tools to enhance your offline experiences."
Tokii has similar aspirations for couples.
"This is targeted at 25- to 35-year-olds who are social media crazy. They're doing it a lot with their own friends so what we're trying to do is pull them back and say, do it within your own relationships," said Al Tolstoy, who founded the site with his wife, Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, in Oakville, Ont.
Launched in March with an app version of the site slated for this Christmas, Tokii has 6,000 members, approximately one-third of them Canadian.
The site features "discovery games" reminiscent of those played on The Newlywed Game: These quiz partners on everything from their spiritual values to their take on the news of the day. Ms. Stephens-Tolstoy said they're meant to trigger "deeper conversations" for long-term couples who may have lost that routine in day-to-day domesticity.
Perhaps the most controversial element of Tokii is the trading system that sees partners bartering domestic chores for sex, but also chores for chores and sex for sex.
"Mostly the men initiate the sex games," Ms. Stephens-Tolstoy said. "Men prefer to have a mediator to feel more comfortable. They don't want to get shot down."
The trades say a lot about a couple: At the Tolstoys' house, he'll send "nag trades" about helping with the landscaping while she'll implore him to make their 10-year-old's lunches or watch Entourage with her.
Mr. Tolstoy says: "I like to spend time together, the touchy feely kind of guy that I am. I say to her, 'Give me some undivided attention,' because she's got the business and she's totally swamped in that, she's got staff around all the time. Some of my trades are, 'Can we find some quiet time just for the two of us, get away, do something.' … She's basically swapping something that will clear up her calendar."
Dawn MacIntosh and her husband Kelly Felhaber have been using the site since May from their home in London, Ont.
They enjoy the trades: "One of our favourite ones is I'll pick up the toys if you give me a massage or scrub my back in the tub," Ms. MacIntosh said.
"For people who know each other but are a little iffy, guys might be a little shy about initiating things like that face to face," Mr. Felhaber chimed in.
They've also discovered a host of "little things" about each other: He knows now that she misses live rock shows and she understands that he's mortified of earthquakes. They've also learned things that aren't fit to print in a family newspaper.
While couples say the sites can bring them closer together, there's something undeniably sad about marrieds tinkering with apps that broach dinner conversation and meaningful dialogue, not to mention basic emotions and sex. Is any of it better than what our tech-free parents did?
"If it's fodder for new conversation and it sparks something, that's great. But they don't want to become lazy, either," said Ms. Syrtash, stressing balance.
"You don't want to just rely on the technology to share the sweet nothings for you. An old-fashioned note goes a long way now. So few people do that, a note in your partner's lunch."