Almost everything in our society has changed in the past fifty years and dating is no exception. With the introduction of technology and social media, we are more connected than ever before. But have we lost the real meaning of ‘romance’?
We have all heard stories from our grandparents about how they met their respective spouses and we listen, enrapt, to how they met at local dances, dressed to the nines, boys standing on the doorstep of their girl’s house, making small talk with her father. We imagine our elders with bright eyes, ready to spend one evening with their loved ones, knowing they might not get another chance to speak to them that week. They treasured the time spent with each other; whereas now, we know the people we are interested in are just a text away.
These stories are usually told with a wistful look in the eye and followed by the comment ‘of course, you never see that anymore’. And it is fairly true to say that there has been a decrease in charm when it comes to the way we court each other, but I think it is more of a change in the definition of romance than a loss altogether. There is a tendency to put too much pressure on ‘real romance‘, which enters into the realms of capital R-romance, Byron and Shelley complaining about how difficult it is to love and how their worlds are being torn apart by the women upon whom they bestow their affections. That isn’t what love is about – the way men and women show their appreciation for each other changes as each generation does but at the core, the feelings are the same.
Many people see the rise of internet dating and dating apps, such as Badoo – allowing us to increase our chances of finding the one simply by pressing a button – as a negative influence on love and something that signifies the end of ‘romance’. However, it is actually a representation of the modern world and how we interact with each other. Many of us lead busy lives and, unlike in the 50s and 60s, we do not get married to the people we date in high-school because we travel much further than our predecessors. As we move away from home and go onto further education, our relationships become shorter and it is rare that one partner is able to make the sacrifice to follow their significant other wherever they choose to go. Constant movement and work can make it difficult to find time to meet potential partners unless we’re set up by mutual friends or work colleagues. The beauty of online dating is that it allows us to weed out the people we know we wouldn’t ‘click’ with or – indeed – want to be with. This increases our chances of ending up with the right person, rather than the person we’re with for convenience’s sake.
We all dream of being wooed by the man of our dreams, dancing through the night, waiting for a kiss as we walk home under the moonlight. But none of that matters if it’s not with someone we can actually have a conversation with. Technology allows us to converse quickly and learn a lot about each other without having to waste a lot of time and money going on dates with someone who, it eventually turns out, just isn’t right. This doesn’t mean that when we find our person we won’t go the extra mile to show them how much we care, but this is done by being the first person to text them in the morning or sending pictures of things we think will make them laugh. The love is there, it is simply shown through different methods. Yes, it might be easier – but isn’t everything these days?
Of course, the sexual liberation that comes with the freedom of the internet is also being criticised for ruining relationships and putting a pressure on people to do things they aren’t comfortable with, such as sending nude photographs or talking to people they haven’t met before. Although it is now easier to request intimate images or videos from a potential partner, the people who are asking for them have always existed. It is arguably better that women (and men) can refuse to do so without getting hurt – when talking in real life, there’s a very real possibility of being taken advantage of (that, of course, doesn’t mean we should be careless online). Furthermore, the internet itself has allowed for much-needed education about sex, in particular, consent and the equality of both parties involved. This means that there is less shame around having sex and couples are more likely to be safe and informed when they choose to partake, whether it be on the first date, the fiftieth or with someone we don’t plan to be in a relationship with.
The upshot is, that many of us don’t have time to slowly court our partners and would rather spend time building our own lives, which are increasingly important in a world where we cannot rely on partners to provide for us. This is a generally positive thing, as it represents the independence and increased equality of the sexes in the working world, but rather uproots the traditional idea of ‘romance’ – a man going above and beyond to ‘obtain’ the woman he loves so that she will stay with him and he will look after her. The development of technology is a move away from that idea, but it would be incorrect to say that we do not love one another as we used to. There are more efficient ways of showing affection and anyone who has ever received a “Good morning, I love you” text will tell you how loved it can make someone feel, without the fancy outings, dinner dates and flowers. Love is love, but romance is a term that will change as often as society.