Digitized love: The prospects and failures of love in modern times

'Hopefully by the end of this crisis we will realize that a phone is no replacement for humanity'

The coronavirus has managed to throw so much of our lives out of rhythm, from work to mental health and everything in-between. One area that hasn’t been getting as much coverage has been the prospect of finding love and belonging throughout these difficult times. How does the fact that we are following social distancing practices affect our fundamental needs for human togetherness? How does self-isolation damage, if it all, our ability to function in a loving relationship? How do dating apps fit in? 

Many dating apps, to follow along with the movement to flatten the curve, have turned to “virtual dates,” as a method for allowing dates to continue, and for individuals to still find love. The dating app Hinge, for example, offers its new “Date from Home” feature, where individuals are given the ability to set up a video or a phone call with their person of interest. Though some may find the concept a bit cheesy, myself included, it’s a good-hearted attempt at trying to better practices throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 

An important question that I often think about is this: What has changed? Though in the past few months, we have been barred from going out and taking part in experiences as we would like, hasn’t love and social belonging moved to digital platforms already? With the advent of social media, so many of us have already moved our social lives to digital rather than personal platforms. Long gone are the eras of picnics and dates at the park, and ushered in is the new era of ghosting and digitized love. 

As a result, we find ourselves lonelier than ever. We find ourselves desperately thirsting for the connection we fundamentally rely on: human connection. We come to a place where we realize that technology cannot replace human socialization, so in such an instance, why do we choose to rely on it still? After all of this is over, will anything change?

With power comes the ability to bring about great change, but not always for the better. Though technology offers such great and seemingly perfect benefits to our lives, these devices are bringing forth an almost drug-like addiction. Our attention spans are shorter, we’re unhappier, and suicide rates are rising

In terms of love, let this be a lesson to all of us. Maybe random snapchats and miscellaneous Instagram stories aren’t the best ways for us to communicate with our loved ones, or for those of us in search of new loved ones in the form of romance. 

Maybe it would be best for us to take the time out of our days to call them, FaceTime them, check in on them in a way that mimics in-person interaction. We’re learning every day that text messages simply cannot replace legitimate conversation, and they’re creating a mockery of what it means to be human. 

And though far from perfect, calling on the phone at least happens in real-time, not split up by the limits of time like text messages so often are. As a society it’s increasingly more and more important that we gradually move away from these dry modes of communication, and move towards methods of socialization that truly satisfy our fundamental needs: to be loved, to be heard, to be listened to. 

Hopefully, by the end of this crisis, we will realize that a phone is no replacement for humanity, and that love in its truest form is not the same when it’s digitized. To find love requires true courage, and such courage must happen in-person, not under the veil of phone and screen. 

Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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