Technology has turned communication on its head. I no longer live in a world where people casually converse with the person ahead of them at the grocery store. Instead, you will find a series of people with their heads down and thumbs avidly keying a screen that illuminates their face while sending society into a dark age of relationships.
This is an exploration of what my personal experiences mean and the remorse I feel over a time of communication gone by, no longer enjoyed often.
What is Romance Again?
I won’t be so morbid as to say that swoon-worthy moments are dead, but they sure are far-fetched, if not totally forced. My idea of a Darcy darling has been replaced with Tinder tastelessness.
I am definitely not a damsel in distress, but are there any hot knights out there that I can ride alongside? What happened to the good ol’ days when I was courted by horse and buggy? I miss my sweating palm as I dialed my boyfriend’s house phone and was forced to leave a voicemail on the family line.
Comfortable as I may be lounging in my favorite PJs, I am not forced to swipe left or right robotically on my coach as I eat dinner and dessert—alone. Again. Hey, no judgments here!
This is no Arthurian legend that I’m living here. I am no character in my favorite Jane Austen novel. I left my land line in the ‘90s with my Tamagotchi pets and Furby. While I am happy to have left many misogynistic social practices in the past, where did the romance go?
There has to be a meeting point between the past and present where a “truly, madly, deeply” kind of love can be secured and kept safe from hackers. I haven’t found it yet, but maybe we can figure out the code.
I “Like” Them:
There is an immediacy that is not only inherent in social media, but also intrinsically part of our lives with the advent of the smartphone. These days you can’t escape notifications and there is no reprieve from hounding texts.
While it is so convenient to have my social life attached to my palm at all hours of the day *insert eye-roll here because I’m obviously being sarcastic*, I can’t help but scoff and think “Who cares what so-and-so is doing at such-and-such an hour?!” Although, I say this as I go ahead and “like” their photo anyway, because that’s the society I live in and I am addicted to the pressures of cyber friendships too.
How can we change this dedication to the cyber “like?” It’s such a massive part of our lives now. I went to dinner the other night with my girlfriends and as we all posted pictures, our conversation wove in and out of social media talk:
I’m so glad the semester is over. You used such a good filter. I just had a major sale the other day, so I am going to make my quota. That’s awesome! No one has liked my picture yet. I did. Yeah, but no one else has. Did you guys see the trailer for the new Leo movie?! Omg, that looks amazing. I can’t wait to see it. Ugh, look who just liked your picture. Who? Just look…
And so the story goes—we momentarily step out of our physical reality into this outside experience so closely tied to what I’m doing at that moment. It’s a new layer of my life that I haven’t quite figured out whether I “like” or not. Regardless of how I feel, this movement towards technological living has given society a new power over the individual as we are swayed towards a virtual reality in tune with others.
No Wait before the Date:
Remember when Christmas was exciting and there were presents wrapped by a mysterious, fat, and happy man who rewarded us for being good? Well, the jig is up. We send Christmas lists to friends and family without any intrigue or mystery because we have to know what we are getting—we have to know that these gifts are right for us.
The innocence is gone as we eat, drink, and are merry with friends and family over the holidays and find ourselves being set up on “blind” dates that aren’t so blind anymore now that we can stalk profiles. With or without the wine, you are drunk on the notion that this might be the one, distorting your understanding of the situation. You now have the ability to kinda-sorta know what they look like, so essentially, you have signed up for “blurry” first date (since people very rarely look as good in real life as they do in pictures).
Then the questions start pouring in… How do I know I like him if I don’t even know if he reads? Is he liberal? Does he like the outdoors? Is he allergic to dogs?! These are all questions I need answered which profile stalking deters us from finding out because catching a glimpse of someone’s pictures categorizes them. We are never able to remove those first impressions with his ex-partner or his agility while doing a keg stand in ’09—we never get a clean slate and it doesn’t give us a chance to find out who someone truly is now.
It is this immediacy that I have qualms with because it has ruined “the wait.” You don’t need to wait around to meet someone because the best versions of those people reside within a little device that fits in your pocket. You are immediately notified when they added you to be a “friend,” and when they “liked” your picture, but what these notifications lack is the meaning within this virtual communication that can only be relayed with human contact.
I mean, what does an Instagram “like” even mean?! Also, how should I react to a man commenting “Gorgeous!” on my profile picture—along with so many other women’s?! These roadblocks didn’t exist for centuries and all of the sudden I’m plopped into a dating scene that is nothing short of understanding social hieroglyphics that include emojis and acronyms for every occasion.
This all sounds nice and confusing, if not a bit superficial and weird, but what about when things don’t work out? What happens when you can’t escape the virtual reality of your ex-spouse?
I Can’t Quit You:
We have all been confronted with the issue of that is *cue dooming sound effects*: the ex. They pop up on your newsfeed time and time again. They went to your spot. They went on a trip that you had talked about. They started dating someone new.
This is where my relationship with technology becomes unhealthy because I always go back for more. How do you move past the “Ugh, I hate them but I want to know what they’re doing” stage? It’s hard but there has to be a way to rewind the clocks to the time when I didn’t have an app that reminded me of our painful parting words with status updates and pictures fun outings.
The best way to channel the years when you were able to move on without a siren going off in your broken heart every time you go online is to un-friend them. I tried it out recently for the first time and it worked wonders. I no longer had the ability to look or see anything. After deleting their phone number, the unhealthy habit was broken forever. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done for ever,” and it’s true because I never have to see him again, or anyone else that I don’t want to see, since I took control of the situation and learned to remove myself from their life. Don’t mind me; I’ll just be dancing down my new singing, “I’ve Got the Power.”
The point I’m trying to make here is un-friend and un-plug as you see fit. Be a “friend” to yourself first. No one can do it for you, so I say take the power that resides in the stroke of your finger as you eliminate the unnecessary and invest in your value. Go out there and wink at that hottie across the coffee shop. Ask for your friends to refrain from showing you pictures of a successful banker who used to party like a rock star. Join a hiking club and have conversations with someone new.
These are all experiences that are available to us now, but we forget when we are inundated with notifications that people “like” us on our lit up screen.
Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be deleting my social media accounts any time soon, and I do believe in the good power and logic behind the technology that keeps my life moving forward, but sometimes you have to take the time to reevaluate the big picture and what it takes to get there. There just isn’t an app for that. I can’t download my partner (even though I sometimes wish I could—it would be a hell of a lot easier). I have to cultivate that relationship myself, the old fashioned way.
Share the Love:
While we may have created these obstacles that did not haunt people in the past, and while they are painful realizations to overcome when faced with a virtual reality layered on top of our everyday existence, social media is a powerful tool for us finding love and loving life.
We can share things with friends and family. We can celebrate others’ successes and invite them to cheers to our own. Just remember to stay grounded within this experience. Technology and the social media that it makes so easily accessible is a simulacrum of what is and always will be reality.
In the End:
I think we found our answer to finding that “truly, madly, deeply” kind of love within this society which is to remember that technology and all that it brings is not our physical reality and to stay true to ourselves when we find our world looking more and more filtered.