When reading Harper’s Bazaar (instead of writing thesis), I came across a great article where Ashton Kutcher, being the insightful philosopher that he is, mused on the notion that the digital age has killed romance. I was inspired by the concept, his insight, and his apparent ability to use words like “vulnerability” and “antiquated.” I thought I would do a little musing of my own.
Communication without physical interface has not only shaped our generation, it’s practically defined it. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, won Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2010, beating out runners-up like J. Craig Venter and “the Haitian people”. Evidently Time and I agree that rebuilding from a catastrophic earthquake and mapping the human genome are less notable ventures than helping me to upload half-dressed pictures of myself and catch my boyfriend cheating.
What this monumental nod to social networking symbolizes is the importance of interconnection today. Online groups and viral statuses have helped find missing persons, raise awareness for breast cancer, and replace my contacts list after a puddle monster drowned my iPhone. With this technological evolution the world has become increasingly connected, making information globally distributable and distanced relationships easier, as recently noted by A Mitch.
But has all this virtual interaction really killed romance? Ilsy Melendez ’11 thinks so. “For the most part, I think heavy usage of texting and online and wireless services is not conducive to romantic relationships. It makes people too accessible sometimes…Where is the mystery?” she says. Ever the romantic, Joe Swartley ’11 agrees. “It has definitely killed romance. There’s no face-to-face anymore. No courting.”
These Amish seniors have a point. “Romance” conjures idyllic images of flustered lovers tossing crumpled pages of poetry over their shoulders as they strive for perfection, of sweating palms and quivering voices and stuttered date requests. Instead, we are forced to decipher nuanced messages and text delays rather than reading facial expressions and feeling the real human chemistry upon which romance is fundamentally based. Dates are arranged through sterile texting back-and-forths, and the clarity of meaning and ease of etiquette leave much to be desired. “He didn’t respond for two hours – does that mean I shouldn’t respond for two hours?” “She updated her Places as The Back Abbey… but she told me she was at the library?” “He put a smiley face! Does that mean he wants to get married?” (Yes.)
There is, however, another side to this evolution. Melendez believes texting “allows people to think (and overthink) their responses, which can be completely fake.” I personally view this as an upside – the ability to create an illusion. “hey grl wats gd 2night?” “nada, just got back from a party, supes dressed up in heels and lipstick, gna kick it in NQuad a lil.” Actually, I’m in my pajamas eating Krispy Kremes and stalking your Facebook, but you’ll never know that and now I’m sexy.
Kutcher waxes poetically and suggests that grammatical errors are marks of fragility and imperfection, of showing our lovers our flawed selves. I see it more as a means of weeding out the dumb ones and establishing relationship hierarchy; if you mistake “your” for “you’re” more than twice I’m unlikely to recruit your DNA for my future children, and if my texts contain grammatical errors, accept that I don’t care enough about you to take the time to type properly. Especially since my iPhone automatically does it for me.
Perhaps romance in the time of the text message is not dead but merely altered. Displays of affection may have moved from floral bouquets to i <3 u, and public confirmation of coupling from “pinning” to Facebook officialdom, but the sentiment behind the action remains the same. If you have a Sparkly Heart Emoji next to your name in my iPhonebook, know that I love you.
A quick poke or loving text may seem less affectionate than a handwritten letter, but relying on the latter would be at odds with the nature of how we now live; our lives move faster, the world moves faster, and if romance did not keep up with our progressing means of interaction it would likely fall mute. You see, an upside of the text message is that if I’m busy, I can choose to respond later. I can be in contact with you all day without having to actually be in contact with you all day. Sure, this is not a Utopian conception of love, but I’m a busy lady.
Zuckerberg and whoever the hell created MySpace may have tapped into some generational requisite for easy interaction with fast and hard results. The time for romance can now be pigeon-holed along with the other components of our cramped schedules, and we can keep in touch more easily and in a far greater variety of ways while we jet set around the globe. Romance is not dead, it just no longer holds the forms idealized in our quixotic notions. Whether this is for good or for ill is in the perspective of each individual lover, but don’t forget that the dawn of the digital era has not eradicated the pen and paper, nor the ability to share a malt shake at the drive-in. Old-school methods of romantic courtship are still more than available, and would probably be received with greater appreciation given that they are so rare. So quit your bellyachin’.
143 baybee <3.