Columns, Opinion

People Watching: Love in the time of the smartphone

Call me pessimistic, but I don’t think romance exists anymore. To me, it’s not a question of what’s at fault, but who is, and I believe the blame can be pointed at Steve Jobs. 

Technology in the form of smartphones has made us lazy with our romantic endeavours to the point that the word “romantic” itself doesn’t even apply to these interactions. I have observed that when exchanges are mediated through a screen, manners and decent etiquette don’t apply either.

One concrete example that comes to mind is Snapchat. Instead of requesting phone numbers, individuals in my generation are more inclined to ask for your Snapchat username first. Before the platform existed, communication occurred over the phone or in written text messages, usually with some thoughtful effort required to appear interested and interesting. 

Now, communication through this popular app is dumbed down to a fleeting picture of someone’s eyes and forehead — context optional. I often wonder if communication in this medium has any real meaning and if I would be better off lying and giving someone my phone number instead. 

The rise of Snapchat as a communication tool between two interested individuals comes with odd, arbitrary norms that most of us have probably experienced at one time or another. No double snap, don’t answer too fast, don’t answer too slow, don’t look horrendous but don’t try too hard. I’m sure there’s more I’m missing.

Another innovation slowly killing romance is Tinder. Sure, some users partake for purely transactional hookups, but before the dawn of the app there was dinner first, maybe a movie and a requirement to at least pretend that you’re a well-mannered person who might have intentions of sustained interest or a second date.

I have found that this laziness stemming from digital communication translates into the offline realm. There is a decline in door holding and it isn’t always the expectation that the boy pays for the girl — we love an independent woman, but sometimes the offer matters. “Goodnight” texts are replacing walking someone to their door and “here” texts are the substitute for ringing the doorbell.

Online, I have realized that rejection requires little effort as well. Now, if a person doesn’t like another they can simply leave them on “read” or “open,” no explanation necessary. It is remarkably easy in our digital world to avoid having to speak to or interact with someone online indefinitely, something referred to in Gen Z parlance as “ghosting.” 

This allows someone to circumvent the actual action of explicitly rejecting someone, as had to be done for the most part over the phone or in person before iMessage and Snapchat. Now this kind of avoidance can be done all too easy, not requiring the tact to maintain general good will and uphold a decent reputation involved in pre-iPhone rejections.

Maybe I’ve just been treated like trash compared to others or maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I’m not the only one that has observed the death of romance thanks to smartphones in current-day dating. In an Instagram poll I conducted on Nov. 4 asking the question, “do you think smartphones have killed romance?” I found that 58 percent of respondents believe so. Of those who answered in the negative, 46 percent are in long distance relationships relying heavily or solely on smartphones for communication.

In the sense that they connect couples across the country or even the world, smartphones are a boon. But from personal experience and observation of others, they are turning the idea of romance on its head. 

Swiping through pictures of potential options doesn’t offer the thrill of organically meeting someone and being treated like a human being with whom one has to earn favor. Snapchatting “wyd” doesn’t seem like an exciting substitute for established plans or a surprise rendezvous. 

Call me an old soul or boring, but I would personally prefer to greet my future husband for the first time with a simple “hello” instead of with the text “It’s a match!” under a picture of him and his fraternity brothers drunk on a boat.

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