As this is the month of February, and coincides with the release of my new book Love Letters: Him To Her available on Amazon I continue to think about matters related to romantic love. At the risk of sounding as though I’ve reached a final conclusion on the matter, I must say that it seems as though romance is dead. I am at a point in my life where I’ve lived a significant portion of it seeing what romance was and even experiencing it myself. But over the last 8 years or so it seems that romance has taken a back seat to research and unrealistic expectations. Mobile apps and so-called “social” media seem to have hijacked a phenomenon that has transpired for centuries between human beings. But, is technology the sole blame?
I do think that the way in which technology has evolved on the consumer level does contribute to the lack of romance in society today. Online, you won’t find a shortage of women willing to degrade themselves by showing nearly every body part they have to get attention or “likes.” You’ll also find men showing off cars and wealth they have (or pretend to have) to market themselves to possible partners. But, it’s all so trite and casual isn’t it? Is a smiley face really better than a real smile? Is a text message or online post which can be copied and sent to several people at once better than a person walking up to ask you out on a date? Today it’s a text message that says “hey what’s going on?” This text is sent to several people at once. Then whoever is doing something that would be a good post to show off what you’re doing for the night is how you decide who you want to “go out with.” It has nothing to do with the person.
As confident, happy and bold as everyone seems to present themselves online, they suddenly become cowardly when it comes to direct or in-person communications. There’s no vulnerability involved with asking someone out via tech channels. If a woman wants to go out with you instead of just saying, or texting, that she’d like to go out with you it’s “I’m bored right now.” Apparently, too bored to pick up the phone and call. See how safe these cryptic interactions are? Men are no better in this regard. Behind all of the safety walls, swiping left and right rather than directly engaging with others we’ve lost the romance. People are researching one another rather than meaningfully engaging with one another.
Then there are the petty games that have evolved due to the plastic screens, keyboards and similar refuges of sterile communication. Here’s an example. I have a younger friend (millennial) who one day was visibly upset over this text exchange between a woman he wanted to go out with that evening. I guess they had been texting all day and it was getting close to the time for making reservations to end. He said, “she’s been doing this all day (since morning)…he’d text then she’d let 45 minutes or so go by and respond with a vague one liner.” Statements like “hmm that’s interesting.” Or “it’s still early in the day…”
I told him to call her and just get to the point. He responded with a look like “call her?” I forgot that phones are not for calling. He asked what I thought he should do. I told him to ask someone else out unless there was something about this person besides “being pretty” that he really liked. He stated he really wanted to go out with her again. I told him she was weighing her options. (i.e. waiting for the best offer) I told him to send her a message stating that if he did not hear a “yes about tonight in the next 5 minutes he would assume it’s not happening.” He was hesitant and thought maybe 30 minutes would be better. I said “5 minutes.” He paced back and forth for a while. Looked at me a few times. I kept a stoic face.
He started to send the text and was saying it out loud presumably for me to hear what he was texting. His text began with “do you think you can let me..” I stopped him immediately and said that it sounded like a question and not a statement. Make it a statement. He then sent a text that was more precise and that got to the point. He began shaking his head as in “I should not have done that.” I said she’ll text you back with an answer at least. He was skeptical. She texted back in about two minutes saying “I’ll be ready what time are you picking me up?” He looked at me and said “I can’t (bad word here) believe this!” “I’ve spent the whole day with this bs!” I just said, “well you have a date now.” He just smiled, nodded and said “thank you…thanks a lot.” As he walked away he was shaking his head and kept saying “this is SO ridiculous.”
I shared this story as an illustration of the loss of romance and lack of courtship I see today. I’m sure women could tell just as many stories about men unable or unwilling to be vulnerable in romance. People today state that it’s so difficult to meet someone. Perhaps the difficulty is less about the technology itself and more about our own relinquishment of romantic (not simply sex) courtship over to this technology. Presently, I think it’s an unhealthy combination of both. What do you think? Is real romance and true courtship dead? Or is this just the present iteration and version of this age old phenomenon?
-Sensei Derek Fletcher