Recently, I’ve read countless articles about technology and social media’s influence on our interpersonal relationships and their ability to prevent us from connecting to one another, creating more distance and alienation than ever before. We recognize conceptually that it’s affecting our ability to build closeness, as well as projecting a sense of entitlement and expectation onto our experiences. When we can obtain almost everything we’ve ever desired without leaving the couch, it’s hard to entertain the idea of expending the energy to actually build something meaningful and time-consuming, such as a new relationship. Yet through our refusal to put down our phones when we’re with friends and family, constantly distracting ourselves with screens in public, and even inviting them into the sacredness of our bedrooms, we’ve allowed technology to permeate our most intimate narratives, including how we view and manifest romance. I would argue that it’s not fair to demonize technology as a problem because in actuality, it isn’t. I am consistently grateful for the incredible advances and conveniences technology provides us and am not disillusioned about it’s inevitable ubiquitousness in our lives. This is simply a user problem, our human error and shallow belief that technology can imitate the fulfillment of real, live interactions, and the perpetuation of nonchalance regarding its omnipresence is beginning to permit the passive disintegration of a once eager willingness to connect and immerse ourselves in the present moment with one another.
The realm of romance and dating for our generation tends to be a sea of mindless Tinder swiping and countless dating apps, incessant bar-hopping, and indifferent hook-ups, (i.e. “Netflix and chill”) and an array of other hurried and concise, instantly gratifying techniques. I was at lunch with my grandfather the other day and he had a lot to say about our “pathetically short, uninvolved courtships” and how they overlook the beauty and nuance of burgeoning love and lack the deliberateness and patience necessary to show true interest and explore another’s depth, and I think that he’s right. I recognize that for many of us, monogamous, enmeshed relationships in the traditional sense are not a realistic option with busy schedules, encouraged independence, career goals, the anxiety of student loans, travel ambitions, and a general dubiousness in regards to the longevity of romance today. However, I’m curious about how removed we’ve actually become from this process of “getting to know someone.”
For many of us, courtship (if you can call it that) consists of a lot of texts and “likes” on various social media platforms, the eventual meet-up’s for drinks, dinner, dancing, or just straight-up booty calls. Eventually we are disillusioned with the other person’s humanness when they show imperfections that aren’t advertised on their Instagram. But, who cares when everything is disposable and replaceable, and we have an infinite abundance of options and unlimited swiping to do? On to the next one, without pause or thought. Long gone are the days of built-up anticipation, (a form of prolonged foreplay, by the way) surprise gifts, notes or letters, long, uninterrupted and visceral conversation, understanding of each other’s baggage and ability to hold space. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with someone and they pull out their phone either in the middle of our conversation or the minute I get up. What is so f@$#ing pressing that you can’t just exist in this moment with me, or more importantly- yourself, residing in your own thoughts and fantasies of you and me in the delicate lapse of time within which I leave and return? Why is it so necessary for us to escape or distract the from these understated moments? Our growing inability to sit with ourselves, which can already be challenging, is exacerbated exponentially by our fixation on technology. When we choose to distract ourselves from the intensity of living, we are surrendering our capacity to be introspective and reflect on the rich brilliance of experiencing true human connectedness.
I’ve also observed extreme entitlement and brazenness that runs rampant throughout our present dating model, particularly when men are rejected by women. This is not to say it doesn’t go both ways, although my experience as being referred to as a “bitch” because I didn’t want a drink from someone is as commonplace as Kim Kardashian’s selifes. A good friend of mine recently had to obtain a restraining order against a man in one of her graduate classes who began harassing her through a series of fifty, yes fifty verbally assaultive text messages when she told him she had to reschedule their date because she wasn’t feeling well. Would people behave this way if there wasn’t the illusion of security created by a screen? I imagine it would be far more difficult to treat someone with such blatant, abusive disrespect if they were standing in front of us, displaying an array, of human emotions and reactions.
So what can we do about it?
It’s unrealistic to assume that people are going to just stop using technology. It’s become so fundamentally established in our society that to regress and attempt to evolve without it doesn’t seem possible. We can’t control or prevent it’s growth or pervasiveness, so we are challenged to progress and expand along side of technology. It has become our responsibility to navigate the use and regulation of it with healthy separation throughout our lives. We are living in both an organic and technological world, and there are such vast, and beautifully complex intricacies inherent in each. It is our obligation to ourselves and to each other to find a way to preserve our essential connectedness and ability to understand and empathize with one another in a deeply authentic, palpable way. So, put down your phone and go out and experience the cataclysmic aliveness of trying something new.
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