Can Love Survive the 21st Century?
We text, send emails, and instant message. We tweet and we facebook. But while new communication platforms spring up left, right and center, are our relationships suffering rather than flourishing?
by Sarah G. Young
A close friend of mine met a guy in a nightclub and they immediately started texting each other, every day, almost every hour. Yet, as soon as she suggested that they meet again, he started to come up with excuses. “I have to work late” or “I’m at a friend’s.”
Their “communication” might have been intimate in the form of text messaging, but one message seemed to get lost. Turns out this guy had a girlfriend. Maybe he just needed the excitement of talking to another woman.
Text messaging is just one more impersonal form of communication in a minefield of technology. In my view, unless I meet a guy face-to-face, talk depreciates in value and becomes cheap pretty fast. We cannot express ourselves with “luv” over text, because the medium suffocates the imagination – shoved into the boundaries of 160 characters.
Facebook, Dating Websites and other Social Disasters
It seems impossible, even forbidden to maintain single status in a world of so many technological opportunities for connection. You've heard the stories: a friend of a friend meets a guy online who describes himself as a younger Johnny Depp. When she meets him in person a couple of weeks down the line - and countless instant messages later, he’s sixty, bald, and more of a Hugh Hefner-type with less hair and more smut. Great.
Where did the butterflies go?
Take the example of Facebook. Intimate details are posted all over the site, ranging from photographs of someone half dressed, or too many tequilas later there's a photo of someone's head down a toilet.
There is also your relationship “status” to consider, your hobbies and comments left by your friends (branded across your wall for all to see what idiotic state you got yourself into the night before).
If you give them the reins, people can read and delve into every part of your life. Recently, in the UK, where I live, the “news” came out that Facebook is no longer the 'private' networking site you thought you used to innocently keep in contact with friends. Instead, it opens windows to breaches of privacy, potential law suits, and, well, you get the picture.
Newspapers have also described employees who’ve been fired over lewd photographs. Perhaps they’ve being caught calling out of work while their boss “witnesses” them “sitting on the couch at home, broadcasting (not so wisely) “f*** my boss!”
My friend, Jenna, experienced this violation last year after a drunken student night out. The next day, photographs emerged of her leaning in to a kiss a guy she had met in a bar. Despite removing the tag that identified her in the first place, her photo lingered. A couple of days later, her boyfriend found it.
'He would never have found out," said Jenna. "It was a silly mistake but instead it had to be plastered all over Facebook.”
And that’s the problem, lack of communication leads to some sticky situations. If you do not converse with your partner, things have a nasty way of coming out in the social networking world.
So, is ignorance still bliss? Or perhaps more significantly, is ignorance even possible?
In this century, the internet has opened up endless possibilities, you can talk to people all over the planet. But has some of the mystery and the intimacy in our relationships disappeared?
There is little gamble or mystery if you can see someone’s Myspace profile and pour over their Facebook photographs. Instead, you are getting a brief picture of their life and, usually, it makes you want to move on.
I met someone, yes, in the flesh, who immediately requested my “friendship” on Facebook. After reading his page, I discovered he was only after “random play” and his hobbies included rugby team antics, such as stripping off and running into the sea at 1 am, and throwing up in bars. His photographs confirmed this and I swiftly removed him from the possibility of friendship.
And, yet, he seemed really sweet in person.
Was his Facebook profile an accurate picture, or just how how he wanted the world to see him? Either way, I did not want in. Social networking in this case, took away the butterflies, the gut reaction that you know you have found someone that amazing.
Talk is cheap
With all these new forms of communication, are we getting the message across in our relationships, or just fuelling ever more narcissistic personalities?
One status update I read on Facebook recently said, “I’m sick of cleaning up after my disgrace of a husband. He treats me like crap.” Well, that got the message across to all her 300 odd friends, but did it solve the problem?
Yes, statuses are a statement to the world, but perhaps we should stop updating and start feeling. My friend’s husband does not even use Facebook, so whether or not she told him how she felt is another issue. Ranting to the world solves nothing, public spats are not communication, they are childish slurs. The argument that communication is key to any relationship is true, but public declarations do not count and are not healthy. Ultimately, they are just embarrassing.
I have a running debate with my own partner. My argument is that Facebook messages are not a form of communication, if you cannot be bothered to speak. I say speak, because I do not view Facebook as speaking. It’s merely a truncated form of expression that lacks substance.
The immediacy of modern communication can also lead to serious miscommunication. Another friend, Claire, had feelings for a male friend of hers, and although they had gotten together before, it was going nowhere fast.
So, she thought she’d hurry things along and find out if he felt the same way about her. After unleashing a torrent of feelings in a technological outpour, she realized he was a dirt bag and perhaps, had she said all she wished to say to him in person, she would have been able to gauge his reaction, realize how uncomfortable she had made him, and not have gone so far.
Breaking up is easy to do
In the world of social networking, there is not only your private grief to consider when a relationship ends, but the public fall-out. “Things only become official when they’re put on Facebook” says it all.
If a relationship is removed from Facebook, it is a declaration to the world. I have friends who have logged on to Facebook and realized that they have been dumped publicly.
Technology is of course a bonus, it gets us talking, revealing ourselves more willingly, and conversing more freely. But I believe it comes at a cost. So I completed my own experiment. I deleted my Facebook account for one week to see the impact it had on my life.
...I spent more time studying for my degree. I phoned people and planned lunches and drinks. I did not have a single argument with my boyfriend, I called him by surprise, instead, and he was chuffed. I thought I would feel alone without my friends and family at the click of a button, but instead I was a happier person. After all, it is lonely staring at a screen when you could be out for coffee.
One of my closest friends has nearly 2000 people who have access to her Facebook page, as “friends”, but we have not spoken for months.
For me, the problem is that our relationship with the Internet becomes more intimate than our real personal relationships. And down the line, if I meet someone who doesn't subscribe to Facebook, I might just find them a little more interesting.
This is Louise Kirk's First Byline for Wild River Review. WRR's First Bylines program provides beginning writers with an internationally recognized platform as well as editorial guidance and online publishing education for their professional growth.
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