Love in the Digital Age

The online dating website, eHarmony.com, touts that is it top rated in the success of building relationships and the number of marriages that are results of the website’s online relationship pairing. As the video mentions, eHarmony.com is well accomplished is building marriages that have been enduring and satisfying for the partners. These touts are suspicious of because of the lack of respected corporations or university name attached to the research. A University of Chicago study was commissioned by eHarmony.com found “that couples who met online were more likely to have higher marital satisfaction and lower rates of marital breakups than relationships that began in face-to-face meetings.” The study was commissioned by eHarmony.com, but the company agreed prior to data analysis the they would not affect the publication of the study. The presence of online dating websites and studies of the performances of the website does illustrate that the method of building a relationship, and identifying a possible partner through solely personal interaction is being challenged if not obliterated. The Digital Age, with various mediums of exchanges from Facebook, email, text messages, and video, have challenged and complicated the trajectory of relationships in both negative and positive lights. What constitutes a meaningful relationship, both emotional and sexually, are subjective and have become more complex and subjective with the presence of electronic and digital platforms and mediums.

The February/March issue of The Rutgers Review published some entries under the heading “We Found Love in a Wireless Place.” The entries address the concerns and expectations that surround online dating and websites dedicate to pairing people together for personal meeting. Articles echos the concerns of self disclosure along with questions of emotional and sexual fulfillment that hover around the online dating platforms. Authors Erich Merkle and Rhonda Richarson, note in their article “Digital Dating and Virtual Relating: Conceptualizing Computer Mediated Romantic Relationships” that the Internet allows for exchanges that have lowered the need of spatial proximity and allows for anonymity (188). The anonymity offered through online exchanges is not simply one side: displaying the complete fabric and attributes of one’s identity, but a power to display wanted attributes and versions of self that are desired to be consumed. Online anonymity allows for the display of particular version of self, yet it allows to create a alternative self different from the factual self. Noticeable in The Rutgers Review entry by Sarah Beth Kaye is the concern of her digital presentation. Thinking about filling out an online dating application she asks herself, “is it too early in the game to speak of my love of ugly-looking fish? Why, in the name of all that’s holy, can I not find an attractive picture of myself where I’m not holding alcohol?” (25) Kaye’s writing hints at concealing attributes that might appear negative and paint her in less than faltering light. But online relationships and exchanges “appears to be richer and to progress faster since the Internet affords a level of anonymity that can reduce feelings of discomfort one may experience in face-to face relating (Merkle and Richardson 190). What surrounds many of The Rutgers Review entries, online dating websites, and the “Digital Dating and Virtual Relating” article is the mix of online and face to face exchanges. The mixture of the two are important for the happiness and satisfaction of the relationship or exchanges.

While a relationship, for example, that build from online platforms that also involves eventual personal interaction is complex and requires careful navigation and negotiation to be largely satisfying and enduring. The success of these relationship seems to reside in the balance between the online and physical presence. So how would a solely online relationship differ and what obstacles and concerns need to be considered? Having a gratifying emotional and sexual relationship completely online involves some of the same concerns of a physical and digital hybridized relationship, but these concerns seem to become accented along with satisfying the desires of traditional relationships.

The film Noah offers a portrayal of the digital life of the lead role of the same name. The films revolves around the navigation of a relationship and hints of a possible new one that largely relies on digital platforms to sustain the relationships. Noah starts out in beginning of the film in a relationship, but because of his fear that his girlfriend, Amy, is possibly cheating on him, based on his searches of her Facebook, the two break up after he hacks and alters her Facebook. Noah finds a new woman while browsing on Chatroulette. The anonymous woman Noah talks seems to be the most meaningful exchanges the audience knows Noah has after breaking up with his girlfriend. The film asks can we have a meaningful relationship if we are restricted to online means of hold a relationship. The answer is neither affirmative nor negative but subjective. The concerns of self presentation are still evident in purely digital based relationship. Issues of the factual true of the individuals needs to be accounted for between the two, but there is also there concern of betrayal in digital relationship. Can there be betrayal if the relationship does not move beyond online exchanges? How would betrayal be detected if there is no personal meeting between the two. Merkele and Richardson notes that betrayal is usually defined as “a sexual act outside of one’s current relationship or marriage” (190). Exhibited in Noah the betrayal involves a emotional trust that is violated with the hacking of Amy’s Facebook. For a digital relationship the betrayal through outside sexual actions is complicated. If the two are digitally dating there can not be any physical sexual exchange. All the two can be is use visual and written stimulation for sexual gratification. But can that actually be gratifying or does it still leave a void that can only be satisfied through physical exchange? It is hard to say there is a definitive answer; it more likely to be subjective, but speculating, the answer would fall in favor of physical sex being the most gratifying and meaningful.  What appears evident is that digital relationships are complex and asymmetrical. There is no universal answer for having a fulfilling emotional and sexual digital relationship. For some they might find happiness in all the important areas of their relationship through online exchanges; while, other may finds voids to that cannot be fill in a digital relationship. Nevertheless digital and electronic platforms have become important vehicles in relationships in the 21st century.

Texts messages and Facebook pictures, posts, and comments can be great tools to start and build relationships, but they can offer vagueness that results in misunderstandings that can be damaging to relationships. Many people are probably familiar with ideas of texting a crush or someone you started a dating to help start a relationship or substance it.  A popular rule found advocated by T.V. characters is texting two or three days after the date so as not to appear desperate or too interested in the other person. A mask of aloofness will attract the other person to you. Another concern about 21st century relationships are Facebook statues and if they have intentions or are applicable to the person’s relationship. What does it mean when a girlfriend posts Taylor Swift lyrics about the woes of boys and adolescence relationships? It would be difficult to find a relationship today, at least from the middle aged to preteens, that do not involve some kind of electronic or digital device, from a land line or cell phone to dating websites or Facebook, in the coordinating the relationship.

Relationships in the 21st century are very complex and troublesome to navigate in part to digital and electronic platforms and mediums. There is not an affirmative or negative answer to whether a digital relationship meaningfully satisfies both emotional and sexual desires. These concerns are largely subjective with thoughts differentiating between people. Yet what is clear is that the ways courtship and relationships are being build and navigated are, if they ever were, no longer straightforward and clear. The lines on what constitutes a relationship and a meaningful relationship are blurred. Digital and electronic platforms and mediums are now normative apparatuses in 21st century relationships.

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One comment

  1. I loved the “texting mind games” video you posted! As much as I hate them, I am guilty of them too-the technological age we live in definitely stinks in this regard!

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