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Romance In The Digital Age

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Not sure if I should quote myself, but this would be an excerpt of a paper that I recently did that I figured I would share with you guys. :P


It's LONG, but I think it's very applicable to today's ongoing online relationships, and since a majority of us have utilized the Internet as another medium of interactivity with each other, I think this would be a good read.


Oh yes. Self-promotion. B)




Technical advances and the world of today have changed the face of what we view as "love." The question of Night At The Roxbury's theme song has become more and more of valid with the passing times: "What is love?" And the answer itself is becoming less and less clear.


It may seem funny to think of it in these terms, but from a more emotional and reflective standpoint, a person search for the answer can lead to rather disastrous results, especially for those that are more traditional in the nature of proper courtship, etiquette, bona fide feelings, and the culture of seeking love in the world.


Do certain methods of communication completely destroy the intimacy, the legitimacy, the very concept of what we did see as love in the past? Do they destroy any need for rational thought when it comes to creating a relationship between two individuals based on what they believe as love? Have we created an entirely new definition of the word in this day and age of the cell phone, the computer, and the Internet?


In the past, love used to be an actual ordeal that yielded favorable results if everything fell into place. There was courtship. There was romance. Poetry, roses, and even a simple walk in the park to spend time with a significant other would mean something. There was that concept that traditionalists can relate to as "love." There was thoughtfulness behind every action, and the entire ordeal was real, authentic. Today, with the advent of communication technology, "love" has become a quick hash of logging online to chat with a newfound interest who we will only know as HotStud17 or xXSweetCandyXx. It has become a simple texting session, back and forth between two people that barely know each other but share a disclosure of information and intimacy that surpasses the usual advancement of trust that was established back in the day. Even the automobile has led to less emotional and more physical relationships with sexual experimentation, being only a phone call, a night at the local bar or club, and a less-than-passionate moment back at "his/her place." Even the undesired results of pregnancy and commitment are mostly cast away with the introduction of contraceptives, promoting and making common such behavior. Viewed by a traditionalist, this would be absolutely absurd.


The world of love as we know it is becoming the exactness of the words of Germaine Greer in her rant The Female Eunuch: "Love, love, love?all the wretched cant of it, masking egotism, lust, masochism, fantasy under a mythology of sentimental postures, a welter of self-induced miseries and joys, blinding and masking the essential personalities in the frozen gestures of courtship, in the kissing and the dating and the desire, the compliments and the quarrels which vivify its barrenness." The words of a feminist that spoke out against the authenticity of love back in the older days would echo today, and it's almost certain that if Germaine Greer were to acknowledge how matters are today, she would turn over in her grave.


Humanity is and isn't totally at fault at these changes for what seems to be the worse in terms of love. The common person is now plagued with proper schooling, the need to work, and ultimately are burdened with lives that do not allow much time for proper courtship, time alone, or anything for that matter. Contemporary society has become something very different from the days when the males were responsible for financial support; when the females were expected to provide a proper upbringing of children and housekeeping; when there were more opportunities to dilly-dally around. Now, teenagers and adults alike are expected to go to college, attain degrees and certificates that require painstaking commitments, work to support themselves, and put leisure time aside until responsibilities have been appeased. The world, consequently, is more at work or school and less in love, promoting promiscuous behavior void of emotional commitment. Unfortunately, no one is presenting a fool-proof solution to appeal to today's commitments and the quest for true love.


The technology of today brings up a multitude of tools and technologies that become detrimental to one of the most important things that establish a relationship: trust. Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are great networking tools to help people meet new people, make friends, and eventually even establish relationships.


What's so bad about being able to meet new people in a completely new and convenient way?


Thanks to the Internet and instant messaging, as well as social networks, people have become more expressive of themselves with blogs, talking behind screen names, and even e-mails. People are willing to fully disclose personal information as well as thoughts unspoken in person-to-person interaction. With that comes a new way of behaving in cyberspace. Interests are expected to be witty, entertaining, and captivating? all without seeming desperate for attention by trying too hard. "Taboo" subjects not normally found in normal conversation are discussed freely online. An entire realm of information sharing opens up with online interactivity? which also creates the problem of trust, as mentioned earlier.


Google has become one of the largest and most utilized search engines in the world to find any information on any thing, place, or person. People nowadays are utilizing it to find information on possible "romantic" interests, which would yield anything published about that person on the Internet accessible to them. Blogs, personal profiles, and even pages dedicated to defiling a person's reputation are open for the world to see, and for that targeted person, it can create a lack of digital confidentiality. But who is to blame? Past ex-partners can be possible culprits, but the worst enemy would be the target him/herself. People are not reluctant to share their lives online through blogs and posted publications (profiles) about themselves, and what could seem like a gateway to share interests and meet other people online can be used against them to reveal embarrassing and/or personal information that they themselves would otherwise withhold from the public in a real-life setting.


With all this information at anyone's fingertips, the only obstacle to overcome is how this information is perceived. A constant chat in a forum between a man and a woman can be seen as a conversation between best friends or potential lovers. Jokes of sexual innuendoes and/or advances can be either taken seriously or with a grain of salt and a sense of humor. A wife would automatically suspect infidelity if she stumbled upon her husband's social networking profile and saw that there were many women leaving seemingly-promiscuous comments on his page, would she not? Or if a husband were to happen upon his wife's page with a list of attractive male friends, would he feel insecure about himself and about his wife's faithfulness? Society's growing cynical nature and its way of perceiving this newfound information is a self-destructive behavior that further complicates the concept of "love" in the age of information technology.


It's strange to think that this is what the world has become. Back in the day, information had to be gleaned from neighbors, friends, gossip, even from the way a person was dressed. Now, society can "learn" mostly anything about anybody with a few clicks of a mouse.


The media and digital matchmaking is no help in the matter. Music is full of broken hearts, newfound romance, and drama. The media makes the illusion of love happening in a matter of half an hour within a reality-TV show. A lot of this is enough to persuade society that love is what will make anyone happy and "complete," and then comes the online dating to fulfill the cycle that nets the industry millions, paid by people who are under the premise that love is what they need and that it's only a few clicks away. People love convenience. Wouldn't it be easy to just go to a matchmaking site and post a profile, peruse through hundreds to thousands more to find a possible life partner, and skip the longer tried-and-true method of actually meeting people in person and having to learn about them without digital means?


It doesn't help that matchmaking sites throw out the hype that science, and not instinct, are more accurate in choosing a life-term partner. Surveys are full of "scientific fact" about how your results would be fitting with a certain profile. Reports are available for a nominal fee. Science trumps intuition. Dating has become more of a selection process based on similar survey results, algorithms, and other mathematical processes. Relationship scientists, "love doctors," and mathematicians are sure to be overjoyed and live long, prosperous, and happy lives.


Science, with its successful hype, has taken over the job of what people felt inside. "By this way of thinking? the story of Romeo and Juliet is no longer the tragic tale of a young man and woman falling in love, but becomes instead a chronicle of how, 'their libidinal impulses being reciprocal, they activated their individual erotic drives and integrated them within the same frame of reference.'"


With science taking the reigns of what most people have forgotten to be true love, society has been brainwashed. Scientists have already measured and analyzed the chemical and physiological compositions of "love." Sexual activity has been beaten to death with more analysis and scientific conclusion. With all this, the concept of love is becoming moreso a flurry of "facts" and explanations, disconnected from the natural intuition and feeling of human instinct. To further throw salt into the wound, developments like pheromone products that are "scientifically proven" to increase attractiveness are being put out as viable solutions to finding a partner, whether for the sole purpose of attracting possible life partners or for the sheer expectation of a simple, raw, and unemotionally-attached one night stand. The complications of love are being presented as solvable by the scientific method through drugs, research, and suggestive behavioral studies that leave readers to start seeing their relationships in a more methodical point of view. With that, the opinions of romance being dead and chivalry being non-existent, to name a couple, are slowly becoming unfortunate truths.


Science, in this way, has changed the way we view potential partners as products: we can almost have a preview of what a person is like, go by the "reviews" (comments) that other people provide, and learn more about what a person's features are before even making a real attempt at trying the "product." The values that define the concept of love has diminished to simple analysis.


With online communication, an emote has replaced a real-life smile and/or wink. Body language is replaced by actions described within asterisks. Flirtatious encounters have become available to even the shyest of people. There are no facial gestures, no subtle hints, or even tone of voice. Everything has to be perceived, which yields unique results. Technology in terms of communications advancement has stripped the emotion from interactivity between individuals and leaves the people of today a rather difficult situation with love in life.


This only applies to most people that are indifferent or ignorant to the unmentioned dangers of utilizing any form of communications other than the traditional person-to-person conversation. Romance still does exist and so can be preserved as long as people realize that communication by technological means serves as an extra medium instead of a way of life. Unfortunately enough, not many people see it in this fashion. They may think that they know, but in reality they may have fallen victim to the trends and fads of the present to assist with living life today. Not everyone is immune to any influence, but it is crucial to be educated about the matters that could afflict a person's lifestyle and be aware of the possible downfalls of the use of any advancement.


If everyone were to be educated and aware of how online dating, social networking, and even instant messaging can affect their lives in terms of love in life, there may be possible mishaps that could be completely avoided, such as the meeting of two individuals who tried online dating prior to their meeting. If hopes and expectations are made before the initial meeting, they could possibly be crushed if the person doesn't portray himself/herself as truthfully or as completely as possible online, compared to their in-person behavior, mannerisms, tone, and even physical attractiveness. Online dating isn't an evil, but it should be forewarned that it's not a cure-all to incorporate love and romance into the world where time is limited, precious, and saturated mostly by work, school, or other commitments. Electronic means of communication should not be a basis for unneeded drama, as no one can read the tone of a particular message or statement. (Sarcasm often falls victim to the variable results of perception.)


In all, keeping an open mind and falling back to tradition will help preserve and protect people from being emotionally-traumatized, disappointed, or even removing the very definition of love and replacing love with a purely-sexual concept void of actual emotion, mutual amiability, care, and the desire to coexist happily in the ties of matrimony.

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