I believe a major distinguishing feature of dating in the year 2017 is the options. Look at the 20-something’s of yesterday, entrenched in their work-home-work-home routine, taking the same route to/from work everyday, and seeing the same faces at work. Whenever they happened upon a stranger who piqued their interest, they had to invest. They had to actually devote time and attention to this person to feel them out because Lawdd knows when they’d meet a new person again. There was no social media, no “people you may know” section, no 2 or 3 likes on a picture from a random person (indicating their interest), none of that. That’s why such an emphasis was placed on courting at the time. That’s why they were encouraged to get out there and find “the one”.
Do you think fabled romance concepts like “the one” could have been first proposed in the social media era? No Way because there is no “one” in social media. Everyone is broken down, stripped of their personhood and individuality, to new followers, lost followers, likes and “super likes”. We have managed, in this social media era, to dehumanize human interaction. Look at tinder. We’re literally scrolling past potential partners like “nope” “nope” “ehhh” “yup” “nope”. It becomes so superficial when companionship (to varying degrees) is one swipe away. On Instagram, it’s one DM away.
The ubiquity of potential partners, easily attainable potential partners, has caused us to grow inpatient with the pursuit- the courting process. Essentially, ain’t nobody got time for that. We feel out one person for a few message exchanges then we’re quick to write them off over a grammatical mistake or an awkward joke that falls flat which probably didn’t communicate well through text in the first place (another pitfall of trying to convey genuine, human nuance through text exchanges). Maybe we don’t like that particular selfie, maybe they respond too late, maybe they respond too quickly, maybe we’re tired of niggas with dreads, maybe we’re tired of girls with that godforsaken flower tiara filter, maybe we don’t like the amount of emojis they use.
Whatever triviality we choose to hone in on, just as quickly as we first engage somebody we begin looking for disqualifiers- some reason, any reason to deem them unfit for us and not worth our time. Why are we so quick to write people off? Because our next potential is one swipe away; one inbox away. We don’t feel a need to invest a significant amount of time in one person and that mindset has reduced the dating experience to a series of stunted, superficial relationships denied growth due to our impatience and unhealthy over-reliance on the seemingly unlimited options provided by social media; which we believe, on a subconscious level, to hold somewhere in it’s depths an “ultimate partner”- someone who fits our aesthetic, intellectual, cultural, social and political standards to a T: A perfect partner, an imaginary partner.
When judging potential partners strictly by avatars and Instagram pics- purely aesthetic features- traditional traits taken into consideration when first deciding on a potential parter such as personality, sense of humor, similar interests etc. become virtual nonfactors as they couldn’t possibly be assessed through online pictures. Consequently, they’re placed on the back burner and purely aesthetic, prized but not necessarily imperative traits become our standard. Essentially, our aesthetic “wants” in a partner will gradually turn into “needs” and minor aesthetic shortcomings we’d have previously overlooked become make-or-break requirements. Example: “Person A. has everything I’m looking for EXCEPT her hair is too short. No problem, I’ll keep scrolling through profiles until I run into Person B. who’s hair is just right BUT she’s lacking everything else I want. No problem, I’ll keep scrolling until I run into Person C. who has everything I like and her hair is just right BUT she has a tattoo and I don’t really mess with those”. I’ll be scrolling all the way to Person Z and still not have precisely what I want, then I’ll scroll some more. Operating from our innately human finalist perspective (the belief that every process has a goal, seeks to achieve an end), we envision this perfect partner to be the inevitable reward of our tireless efforts navigating the dating pool; placing so much faith in the inevitability of this perfect partner that we dismiss every ACTUAL person we encounter who falls short of the imaginary standards we’ve attached to this imaginary person. This is the result of the superficial, impersonal relationships, unrealistic romantic expectations and inhumane approaches to courtship encouraged by these so-called “advances in dating” that we hold in our hands, log into everyday, and attempt to convey human compassion through.
Human intercommunication is complex, layered and nuanced. Something so simple as shuffling feet, pursing of the lips, eye contact (or avoiding eye contact) can convey a depth of emotion every letter on the keyboard couldn’t express. Human interaction, where the tone used can say more than the words spoken. We’ve attempted to take this and package it into 5x2" hunks of glass and plastic, an act as arrogant (also characteristically human) as it is impossible. In attempting to do so, we’ve only damaged our perception of human interaction and even hindered our capacity for human empathy. Still, like the generations before us, we are encouraged to get out there and find “the one” in a dating atmosphere where to like somebody is to double tap on a pic and face to face interactions have been replaced with thumb strokes on an iPhone. All of these technological advancements meant to streamline and simplify the dating process have actually wholly corrupted it.