I sometimes envy the romantic climate of my parents’ generation. The one that existed without social media, instant messaging, and dating apps. It relied on handwritten letters and phone calls, required people to leave their homes in order to meet someone, and the only way to learn about one another was through conversation.
That world existed before modern mediums designed to “enhance the human experience” hit the market, placing devices in our hands that promised a better way to connect. We now live in an era of social media, unlimited text messaging, and a Jetsonian-like capacity to video call one another–all things which keep the conversation going from the moment we wake up, to the moment we fall asleep. For couples, especially those in long-distance relationships, this evolution in communication has been a blessing. Yet, when comparing between today’s romantic trajectories to those of generations before us, I wonder if our ability to remain ever-connected has come at a price. Has the quality of our courtships improved along with technology or has it made them more superficial, and perhaps even unhealthy?
Today we rely on algorithms to find partners, in such a way that we remove the mystery of wondering if someone shares our romantic interest. We stay connected through flat, textual conversations and emoticons intended to replace our handwriting and inflections. We fight more due to the resultant misinterpretations, but panic if someone actually dials our phone number. Writing letters and expressing our feelings now seems over-the-top, but somehow sexting doesn’t. We learn about others not by spending time with them, but instead by creeping their social media pages, and making assumptions about them based on our virtual perceptions. We can’t disconnect from our partners without seeming uncaring, and attempt to dull the pain of lost love by serial rebounds easily reached through dating apps. Long-distance relationships often outlive their expiration date because it’s harder to gauge the end with a constant baseline connection. Instead, we reduce them to a heartbeat that we keep on life support just because we have the technology. When it all ends, we take longer to move on, because our ex-lover is always just a few clicks away.
In the decades since my parents first laid eyes on each other, our idea and experiences of romance have been convoluted by mixed messages and media. It seems like with every new point of connection that we are able to make, the process of falling in love becomes progressively impersonal. Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned, but when it comes to a better connection, I think we’ve lost it.