Dating has always been exhausting and nerve-wracking. The thwarting feat has been recorded in literature for centuries and agonizing heartaches have been melodized in cathartic tunes and many sorrowful nocturnes. Unrequited love, the turmoils of lust and the basic foils of romance are eternally resonant. The difference is that in the digital age, we have screens to hide behind.
However, does anyone else get the sense that the current state of dating is more complicated than ever? I tried to dismiss this feeling as my tendency as a 20-something to over exaggerate and over dramatize everything, but I still can’t seem to shake off the suspicion that being single in 2011 is exceptionally difficult.
I have been sitting at Caffe Strada for hours now. Why haven’t you, hunky babe sitting across from me near the foyer, asked me for my name yet? But I am equally at fault in this situation by waiting for you to initiate a conversation. The hesitation is not because I am a woman — as that dating dynamic is archaic — but because I, too, am a citizen of the transient, modern world and turn in to a nervous, squeamish mess inside when it comes to talking to strangers.
The game of dating has evolved. This tortuous gambit must now be contextualized within a virtual world where things are simulated to seem like we have more control, when the core of human emotions and desires are incessantly ambiguous and fundamentally impossible to contain. The mysterious delights and positive joys of dating are minimized, but there seem to be more unspoken rules than ever before.
Nowadays, it is paradoxical to “play-hard-to-get,” since your entire collection of brooding thoughts is displayed artistically on Tumblr and every last witty remark can now be caught on Twitter. Inside jokes and spontaneous interactions that create intimacy have been reduced to pixelations on profile pages. We must prove our relationships by establishing a status on our profiles. We must release the announcement of our breakup to our 698 friends.
Romance is dubiously regarded as it is, and remains a difficult concept that many people have trouble believing in. And now that we are dependent on digital affirmations of love, dating has become tainted with a cruel indifference.
As you evolve beyond the puerile hookups at parties — or never really were in to that to begin with — and earnestly seek genuine affection, or at least someone meaningful to have sex with, you are most likely becoming aware of the frustrations and strains involved with the current rituals of courtship.
The entire Bay Area seems to be communicating through dating websites such as OkCupid and Grindr — essentially more straightforward, sexually charged versions of Facebook messaging. Craigslist has an entire section dedicated to posts for “missed connections,” which only solidifies the transience of modern civilization even further.
We check out everyone’s merits before giving them the time of day, scan their interests before showing interest and click through edited profile picture after profile picture. Have we forgotten how to be genuine?
The main contradiction is that, as exposed as we are, people are also guarded and introverted to an unprecedented degree. As dwellers in a time of rapid technological advancement, we have a privileged view into many aspects of the world, including front row seats of another individual’s life. Because we can satiate our fascinations within our homes, when we are on the streets and in the public sphere, we are contained to our group of friends and less willing to engage with strangers.
When courage is finally mustered up — alcohol-induced or not — and a phone number is obtained, the relationship will usually proceed in the intricate, fragile realm of text messaging. Emotions are diminished to acronyms and abbreviations. The turbulent nature of desire must be diluted to perfectly crafted comments. The worst part about it all is not that texting is slowly giving us carpal tunnel, but that we persecute people for their bravery — one text too many will have you immediately and forever typecast as the “crazy girl” or the “creepy guy.”
Romance should actually be thriving. Because of the impressive amount of knowledge that is available to us at our fingertips, we should actually be more interesting than ever. People should be excited to make new bonds and interactions. And because of the constant inundation of information which makes the world so overwhelming, I think what we need most is not the next iPhone upgrade — although the rumored edge-to-edge display is alluring — but genuine companionship, real conversations, passionate chemistry and visceral connections. Is that asking too much?