Is Modern Life Killing Courtship?

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Our dating expert Sara Lynn Michener shows us the up side of dating in the Digital Age.

It’s not what form of media you use, it’s how you use it.

I’m really profoundly tired of all the trend pieces that have been coming out proclaiming that Twitter, Facebook, texting, and otherwise “modern life” is destroying romance. Clearly, they are written by and about people who aren’t enjoying what dating is today instead of those who are. Writers are interviewing people who are trapped in a state of perpetual confusion; navigating these digital love waters in paper ships, and then forming sweeping conclusions about those waters instead of the seaworthiness of its vessels. Arguably, any other new strain of culture would be documented from the perspective of those who are successfully shaping its future. This other approach is like telling the story of a new social media application solely from the perspective of its least savvy users.

This may be because some of these journalists are old enough to be confused themselves about the way people a mere decade or two younger date, and so they find an easier angle to pursue by interviewing the lost souls of millennial romance. They scribble an endless nostalgia-fest of the fiction of simpler times. I am visualizing these articles being passed around among the worried mothers of female millennials, or the anxiety-ridden older singles who do nothing but debate internally about whether or not they should finally attempt online dating, only to use these articles as an excuse to continue doing the same thing they did in the 80’s (but expect different results).

I was born in 1979 — ever so slightly too old to be a millennial depending on which definition you follow. I follow the correct one — because I identify with the last pages of a generation that didn’t grow up with cell phones and internet. If you remember getting a new Atari growing up (writer raises her hand), you’re not a millennial. But because I have chosen to stay single for a number of reasons, I’ve been dating in their millennial world. In fact, I’ve dated a number of men who are younger than I, and I use the experiences to educate myself about how things are. I would be incapable of enjoying such activity if I hadn’t had a few negative experiences that have served, as they should, to better hone my skills as a user of Facebook, OKCupid, or Smartphones.

The camp that insists that New Media is destroying romance is not the camp that is getting (or giving) any romance, and it becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t get me wrong – dating in the Digital Age can be confusing at times because it is so transient, but no more often than love would be confusing anyway, before the internet. Romantic love is complex because of social constructs that have existed for a long time, which have done actual romance the biggest favor by giving it something to push against. One of the most positive aspects of what’s going on currently is that some of those constructs are being broken down in the name of the terrifying prospect of more choices and other good things. But the romance isn’t going anywhere. If men use text messages to send you dirty, suggestive, desperate 3 a.m. “dates,” don’t date them. My boyfriends use texts to send me quality prose, and I send them back. Other than the occasional LOL (nothing wrong with acronyms) they use proper spelling and grammar for the most part.

Structurally, romance equals the stories of how we become close to people. Every romantic comedy that was ever made is a sequence of relationship highlights and lowlights strung together to form a story: meeting, fighting, coming together, healing, resolving, communicating, laughing, shared experiences, etc. This same pattern happens in today’s modern world, peppered with the occasional Post-Nora-Ephron-esque digital hijinks that make You’ve Got Mail seem so endearingly quaint now. So if you’re not enjoying romantic life in 2013, talk to those who are and be open to evolution. Feel free to ask me too. Send any questions to [email protected].



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