Digital Love: How We Fall in Love in the Era of Social Media
If Internet is made of servers, cables and electronic components, the magic of its technological chemistry lies in our ability to make it an emotional territory.
Let's talk about love for once, and, more precisely, about falling in love. The guys who were born now won't fall in love the same way we used to.
The new documentation of modern love
Last January, Neil Parris proposed his girlfriend through a 42-picture Instagram story. That's incredibly interesting as it's more and more common to use a digital layer to reveal deep feelings. As Jenna explains:
“We went from Facebook chat, to a text message, to a phone call, to our first date when I moved home. It blossomed via social-media chat”
The love-proof might be the demonstration of these sweet feelings through digital footprints. Rings are now rooted in Google results, in likes, comments that we spread and create in social networks. It's now an issue when you are in a relationship not to mention your beloved one in your profile. Love becomes an intimate and socially recognised currency. An extimate apparel which defines one's identity. In 2009 already,Jill Stewman and Algie Bhoomz got their avatars married in an online ceremony witnessed by 60 RedLightCenter.com friends. An additional 20 came to the reception, on a virtual yacht.
A new culture of love
These "loveprints" are massively spread through visual sharing networks like Instagram. It's interesting as it also shapes new norms and new frontiers; double-selfies are the new wedding-portraits, but on a more regular basis. The notion of "beauty" is evolving with the explosion of subcultures: concrete manifestations of love now join a more pervasive way of expressing them. Is it a tattoo you distribute on Instagram? Is it a special hashtag for your loved one?
This culture of love is also a battlefield: when Rihanna spreads explicit photos, it generates strong reactions from supporters and even stronger comments from opponents. Our feelings towards genders and sexual behaviours can be challenged on a daily basis...
According to Havas, almost 1 in 3 millennials (29 percent) say images on the Internet have influenced how they think about sex. Therefore about what's "normal", what's "acceptable" and also what's "inconvenient".
The risk of filter bubbles
While progressive ideas might widespread easily through social networks, we also know that cultures can cross like ships in the night. Social media interactions could then become a very strong disabler if it is used to maintain a community binded: active censoring of "bad" behaviours and incentives to denunciate anti-conformist profiles are rising. Parents aren't going to get rid of kids' laptops or smartphones - they are going to delete kids' profiles on specific social networks.
Specialised dating sites that are dedicated to specific religions or ethnicities are also increasing. Depending on how you position yourself, you can consider them as a massive opportunity to meet like-minded people, or to worry that they split the world in cultural prisons.
Complexity as the new fun
In fact, in a recent study, eHarmony mentions that dating platforms can't predict as Amazon does, about the way you're going to meet the one:
“We can't just recommend someone to you – it has to go two ways. That's a challenge, because someone may be perfect for you but you may not be perfect for them”
There's a fantastic place for serendipity for people who are keen to open the gate to their souls: social status, economic power and beliefs can still be tremendous factors. But still, there's a wider place for unexpected affinities, risks and "accidents", even through a very monitored world of digital feeds.
Connecting the souls before the bodies
Imagination and reality is a strong duet in love; some might bet that we're going to explore more and more the others' souls before even meeting them "in real life". Another bet is that through words, emoticons, screens as a social interface between two individuals, we can reveal more to this distant, digital foreigner than to close friends or acquaintances. Does it mean that we're unfair with this digital one as, to a certain extent, this particular one is even more fantasised than before? Not necessarily if the deal is clear. Thousands of love stories started in IRC rooms years ago. Millions of "I love you" are sincerely written, then said, through messengers' app.
In the movie "Her", Samantha (the Operating System) opens a futuristic vision of our relationship through technology:
“It’s like I’m reading a book and it’s a book I deeply love, but I’m reading it slowly now,” she says. “So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you and the words of our story, but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world; it’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much, but this is where I am now, and this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book anymore.”
Reconnecting the bodies to the souls
There's a risk thus in social media and virtual ecosystems: that they become the cemetery of our lonely minds, lost, not ready anymore to take the risk to really meet and discover someone. Instead of becoming amplifiers, they could become isolating orders. In Japan, there's a disconnection between bodies and souls, so intense that the government is now scared that no one is going to marry anymore.
“Japan has developed incredibly sophisticated virtual worlds and online communication systems. Its smart phone apps are the world's most imaginative." Kelts says the need to escape into private, virtual worlds in Japan stems from the fact that it's an overcrowded nation with limited physical space. But he also believes the rest of the world is not far behind.
In the era of Internet of Things, it might be worth reinventing the Internet of People; digital data, measurement, quantified self should be forgotten for one second, to maybe go back to basics: why do we want to talk to people.
PS: I love you.
(posting your love to Facebook / shutterstock)
After few years in the media industry (founder of SocialERS for L'Express) and in Social Media (former head of 360° Digital Influence @ Ogilvy ) Laurent has launched a creative & digital agency in London, RE-UP (formerly French Ideas). He teaches Digital Marketing & Strategy in diverse business schools (ESCP Europe, ECS etc.). Laurent also blogs on fashion on Hit Bag and Le Boulevardier. ...
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