Love in the Time of Zoom: Why We’re in the Midst of a Dating Revolution
By Debora Spar
It’s nice to believe that love comes always as a magical thing, a proverbial bolt of lightning across a crowded room. It’s comforting to imagine that this most human of emotions has been with us forever, ageless and unchanging. Yet the history of romance reveals something very different; something driven by the technologies that define our era as much as by the chemicals that fuel our brains.
Yes, we human beings have been falling in love since time began. Yes, we probably feel the same rush of excitement and desire that drove our ancestors to distraction, too. But how we find our loves, how we live with them and mate with them and leave them for another, has changed repeatedly over time. And now, with the future crashing into us at ever faster speeds, the ways we live and love and mate are poised to change again — more dramatically, perhaps, than ever before.
How We Got Here
Throughout most of human history, love and marriage were only accidentally connected. Beginning with the Agricultural Revolution of around 8000 BC, when marriage as we know it first came into being, young people were paired off by their elders, matched in ways that made sense for their families, their villages, their tribes. Sex was an inherent part of the transaction, since it produced the children who would subsequently farm the fields and inherit them. Romance was not. Instead, for thousands of years, marriage was mostly a business — witness the traditional dowry or “bride price” — and courtship a community sport. If there was passion, it occurred either through happenstance, or outside the bounds of marriage.
Things started to change in the 18th century, as the Industrial Revolution yanked millions of people away from the agricultural economy and into a future marked by factories, railroads, and crowded, burgeoning cities. For the first time in history, young people could…