Love in The Age of Technology

February 9, 2018

Love in the age of technology

St. Valentine’s Day is upon us. St. Valentine paid his dues under a Rome that had outlawed marriage for young men. Young men made much better soldiers than husbands, thought Rome. A young priest named Valentine helped the young men marry their sweethearts… he was killed for his defiance. You might be preparing to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the flowers and chocolates that have become the hallmart for consumers. Me, I re-read Love In The Time of Cholera.

The story sets up a lifelong love triangle between two men in pursuit of their lady: one being a modern man of science, and the other a bold, and poetic romantic. A choice for the lady between rationality and passion.

It gave me pause to reflect on love in the time of technology and the extent to which mobile phones, dating apps and social media now filter our love connections. What impact does digital interference run on the bold, irrational, human connection that inspired St. Valentine to risk it all and, ultimately, to lose it all.

The above image, the social commentary of street artist Banksy, strikes a chilling example of art imitating life. It is difficult to imagine how the soft warm glow of phone light could meet our need for connection in the same way as, say, a soft warm human hand.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher, has researched the question that we ponder today and fundamentally, she believes that the fundamentals of love hasn’t changed in the wake of the digital era, and if anything – wait for it – the way that technology facilitates faster connections without the need for physical closeness – actually leads to “slower, more intimate relationships”. You can check out her TED talk here.

The research seems counterintuitive to me as Banksy’s approach seems more in line with how love looks in the age of technology. So maybe, like Fisher suggests, technology – with its pace and connectivity – is enhancing the way that we come together – perhaps the question is actually one of quality of relationships, once we are in them.

Here is where it gets unromantic and science-y but bear with me. The attachment to a mobile phone threatens the bonds to an intimate partner but in a surprising way. The study (published in the Journal of Psychology of Popular Media Culture,) found that the impact of attachment to a mobile had less to do with how much time was actually spent on the phone, but more to do with how much a person ‘needed’ their device: so the strength or the quality of the relationship with the phone vs the partner. So, jealousy, about the relationship between the partner and their phone is where love in the time of technology is headed.

I think, on balance, I would take technology addition over cholera as the era of my own love story…even though that seems too rational to be a romantic sentiment this Valentine’s day, there doesn’t seem to me to be a lot of ‘whimsy’ in the effects of an infectious, often fatal, bacterial disease. I choose to love in the time of antibiotics if you will.

As for Valentine’s Day, as well as a day of renewing love with a significant other, might be an opportunity to review our relationships with technology.

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