Couples remotely share a bed for many reasons, ranging from the pragmatic to the romantic. For one thing, it comes with the obvious benefit of confirming a partner’s fidelity. “You can’t cheat on me while I’m watching, basically,” said Krissy Celess, a 24-year-old rapper and salon owner in Miami whose boyfriend lives nearby, in Fort Lauderdale, but travels a lot for work. The routine can also be soothing. Many people I spoke with slept over videochat every night; some said they couldn’t fall asleep without their partner on the screen. When Alvarez visited her parents, who have limited Wi-Fi service, she and Klepacs conserved data by not videochatting during the day, so that they could fall asleep together at night. “It was mandatory for us,” Klepacs told me.

The absence of touch may make videochatting less physically intimate than sharing a bed, but simulated proximity can create a different type of intimacy: While one might share a bed with a one-night stand, one would presumably never fall asleep with a stranger on FaceTime. Almost all the people I talked with stressed that they could sense their partner’s presence through the screen. Rachel Griffin, a 22-year-old security guard at a Walmart in Orlando, Florida, told me that videochatting overnight with her now ex-boyfriend helped her get through a motel-room stay during a cross-country move. “I didn’t feel lonely,” she said. “I could wake up in the middle of the night, and I knew he was there.”