“Be careful out there,” warned Stefan, my white-haired ballet teacher, as he yanked my leg back into perfect placement with his rock-hard cane.
“Things are too easy in your time. There are these things called ‘hookups’ I hear about in college. It makes love too easy, Eda. It’s not supposed to be. Life isn’t.”
These words left the mouth of an 86-year-old Polish man in a ballet class on an innocuous Sunday morning. He spoke nonchalantly, his words vying for my attention alongside the morning sun streaming into the reflective pools of mirrors that lined the walls. It was early, and I was tired, unhappy with contorting my limbs into intricate shapes on such little sleep. It was only when I came back to school later that year that I realized the meaning behind his careless words.
Technology’s role in today’s development of romance has been vehemently criticized time and time again. Because it’s true: It’s a lot easier to engage in casual romance now than before. Would casual hookups exist without the ability to send a message when you feel like getting laid? Would you meet as many people in the area for the sole reason of getting physical without Tinder? The ability to instant message, Skype and chat has changed the way we view something that previously had to be earned.
Everything happens so fast.
Constant chatting decreases the amount of time it takes to “get to know” another person. It’s easy to let go of your inhibitions, to break down your walls when you are given so much of someone else all at once. In addition to incessant communication, the Internet provides us with portals such as Chatroulette, sites on which many teenaged girls are bombarded with inquiries to hook up more often than not. The possibilities for fulfilling physical needs are endless. Why, then, are so many people left unsatisfied?
My friends who swipe right more than left are the very ones who complain to me about lacking connection with people they meet in real life. My cousins, equipped with stable full-time jobs and OK Cupid accounts, have yet to settle down with a successful online encounter. Has it become so difficult to meet others in the world around us that romance has begun to die?
I mean, we do have it pretty easy. Unlike Stefan, we were not born into Nazi-occupied Poland and raised for professions that led us to travel like gypsies across the world. We did not pound our feet on a stage in the centre of war-torn Paris, dancing while the city burned. We weren’t born into poetic struggle or romanced hardship. No; we have been conceived in an era so encrypted with the comfort of technology that a single drop of real, beautiful challenge — even if only in love — might cause all our wiring to short-circuit and explode.
But who am I to deny that the very system we tear apart is the same one that gives us an endless amount of opportunities never had before?
I have been lucky enough to know love across oceans and continents, across thousands of miles. I know what it is to trace the outline of someone’s pixelated face when it freezes mid-Skype, defined by its poor resolution and candid capture. I know how it brings both joy and pain when you hear someone’s voice through a receiver, the resonating sound waves the only way of make-believing they are beside you. Love is still love when you text it on a blue chat bubble, when you can only reach it through a precariously strung telephone wire.
Love is still love.
It will clear its throat, and it will make itself heard when it so chooses, hindered by our extensive circuitry or not.
I have an uncle who has found a life partner online and a friend who fell madly in love with a girl 4,000 miles away, whom he Skypes with everyday. For every person who feels like they have sold their soul to the casual hookup culture of today, there is another that is eternally grateful for what our advancements have given them.
We may not have been born into undying romance, into marriage until death do us part, into courtship or chivalry or conventional ideas of what relationships should be — but, trust me, we know love when we see it.
The devices we feel beneath our fingertips might be thought to instigate a culture that feels too dry and arid, too devoid of thirst for real commitment beneath all of the casual, but I’ve always found that when the sky cries, it sobs. It may be hard to feel the first, soft droplets grazing our skin, but I am certain, despite what Stefan thinks, that we would never be able to ignore the torrential downpour that accompanies true love.
After all, who doesn’t love getting caught in the rain?
Eda Yu writes the Tuesday blog on the day-to-day life effects of technology. You can contact her at [email protected].