Too Much Technology
The digital age has been easily characterized as a historic period in the 21st century where the use of technology has become prevalent throughout the world. Love, on the other hand, has never relaxed into such absolute descriptions. Love is realized by possibility, and it’s the proliferation of this possibility, which makes love difficult to objectively define. Throughout the years, the contemporary meanings of trust and love have been revised into text message ballads whose rhythm is the swoosh sound of a delivered iPhone message. We’ve been led to ask, has love changed? Has it since become manufactured, diluted by plastic and screen? While social media and the smartphone are technological machines, I think both remain deeply embedded within our own system of intimacy; a system, convoluted and confused, like tangled headphones, but one which still remains at our core, fleshy and human.
It’s true– our traditional attitudes have been swayed by the intrigue of instagram and its allure of importance, but I don’t believe that this disruption has been as detrimental to love as we might assume. What’s most at fault here is the assumption that the world still works in binaries. The West, as Derrida put, is defined in binary oppositions; on one side, we have human connection, and on the other side rests a cold computer. Binary thinking is a mode of the past; we may think that technology is dehumanizing, but this theory is specious, too simple- the Internet is simply an extension of ourselves.
It was around the same time that I moved to England, when I realized technology was not the downfall of my unmet ‘Elizabeth Bennett’ moment. At first, Jane Austen and my Iphone felt at war. Endless tinder swiping, and guiltless instagram dm’ing made finding love seem easy but left me feeling cheated out of the romanticism I thought I’d been promised. So, I took matters into my own hands; if I wanted sealed stamps and letters, the post office was only up the street. I was a first year at university thinking I had really figured it out. It was during fall, and I was speaking to a guy about a five hour train ride away; he was older, effortlessly charming, and typically British. I don’t want to exhaust this article's sentimentalism, so needles to say, I baked him muffins, wrote and mailed a love letter (which was written on a literal leaf) only to get ghosted on instagram, and in ‘real life’. I realized then, that I too was living by a fallacy, which claims that love loses its sacredness to technology. While I can appreciate that saying ‘he unfollowed me’ may not sound as lyrical as 19th century prose, both carry the same truth. If you take away the theatrics of it all, whether delivered by imessage, hand, or horse-drawn carriage, our love lives only within the intimacies of each exchange, and romance will never reach someone who isn’t there- online, or other.
Regardless, love for me, has always been in some way, digital. Internet love is romantic; time and space shrink, and there you are, trying to fall asleep in the same bed despite being thousands of miles a part. When people find out that my first love was a boy from the states, and someone who I had only met on tumblr, their reactions exude apprehension. A lot of people ask, how I did it, others wonder how I could love someone without ever having met them. Admittedly, it felt bizarre at times, but bizarre never felt wrong. My ‘online love’ was as real as what the rest of my friends were experiencing while we sat underneath our high school stairwell.
Six years later, I’ve continued to fall in love on the Internet.
While it's been easy for me to blame my jealousy and trust issues on social media, I’ve recently learnt that if we blame the ‘online’, we’re merely displacing our internal conflict onto something more tangible. Dismissal provides us with a quick sigh of relief that says ‘there’s nothing possibly wrong with my relationship’- “it’s twitter’s fault!! And snapchats!! And fuck you instagram!!” While, I’m not going to pretend that social media isn’t a facilitator of our problems, it’s important to consider that there might also be something wrong within your relationship too. Otherwise, the Internet will always be the perfect scapegoat- and fair enough! Internet sociality has a myriad of problems. On a day-to-day basis, we’re barraged with texts, and notifications that make us question our relationships: that stomach sinking feeling when an otherwise doting boyfriend fails to post a picture of you together, or that dm from your ex that makes you think ‘what if?’ So, even if we rehearse Derrida’s theories, and tell ourselves that our upset is irrational- our emotional ego is left unchanged. The problem remains: it’s much easier to blame your significant other for liking someone else’s photo, or blame the internet for the existence of that photo, than to look into ourselves and realize that these issues have always been there before the internet.
Although social media isn’t always an accurate depiction of reality, the feelings it surfaces are. Ironically, social media has, time and time again, interfered with the relationships it has so graciously given me. Pre-existing issues in real life are more easily accessible online: my jealousy and insecurities are hypersensitive just from scrolling down my feed. We use ‘like’ as a double-edged sword, and our posts and dms are both damaging and reparative. The answer seems simple enough: ‘turn off your fucking phone’, however, I know that even if I do, I’ll be back on within a few hours following my finger’s lead. Lately I've begun to ask myself, ‘how does it serve you?’ How does it serve me, allowing myself to let my insecurities dictate the way I engage with social media? I realized I’m tired of putting other woman down just because my boyfriend follows them. Do I really need that skateboarder’s validation? Would I ask for it in real life? Probably not. If you feel the need to be going through your partner’s likes and follows, a bigger conversation needs to happen- one that starts with yourself. Remember, jealousy is the dictator, not your phone. Once I confronted these questions, my love life has become less mercurial, and I've become able to navigate my relationship and mental health in a much healthier way. As the cliché goes, loving yourself helps a hell of a lot when you’re trying to love someone else, and once you do, you can start to delete these messages that don’t matter.