Feature Article: I E-Love You


As I walk into my office to begin my shift, I hear one of my colleagues excitedly say, "Well, he 'liked' my status update!" This was in answer to when our fellow colleague asked her whether a guy had called her back since their date three days ago.

He hadn't.

But this morning, he had hit "like" on her status update and this meant all was well, apparently.

As a woman who started dating back when people still used ICQ, I did not think that this was a good sign. If anything, I felt her date liked her a little bit, but not enough to actually contact her directly. His liking of her status seemed like a lazy way of reminding her of his existence and that he was vaguely interested. If he should decide to actually see her again, she would not be able to say that he hadn't kept in touch.

To avoid an angry or hysterical co-worker, I did not make my opinions known but I did (silently) ask the following question: Is this what its come to?

Technology has facilitated a number of aspects in our lives over the past decade. The rise of the smartphone has catapulted the use of Facebook and Twitter to a new stratosphere of sharing. Beyond social networking, the constant access to online content means we literally have our finger on the pulse of the universe. In the span of a minute, you can check the weather as you check your bank account to see whether your paycheck came in, as well as enable your GPS so that it can guide you on foot to the nearest bar, bank, mall, park, airport, you name it. And of course, update your status to "check in" to your location. I myself, have done all these things while standing outside my school just yesterday.

Considering the multiple studies done on the effects of information overload on regular social interaction, it is safe to assume that it has also made-over the face of love and relationships. We don't call - we text. And by text, it is more often than not a Facebook message. A conversation between potential romantic partners can go on for days by messenger as they get to know each other.

In addition to this, the instant online connections have also made it that much easier to cheat on steady partners. Like the Quebecois comedian, Maxim Martin, put it so hilariously in a recent show, "Back in the old days, you had to travel to the next village to cheat and you had to get there by a horse buggy. It was so much damn work that it wasn't worth the secret.(...) But now, you're sitting next to your partner while trolling your Facebook friends for a mistress. Sad but true, isn't it?"

Maxim Martin. Photo courtesy of Exrue Frontenac.

But going back to the subject of communication between dates by texts; how much are these people really getting to know each other? They cannot hear the intonations, the laughter and the more serious tones. They inevitably wind up making their own interpretations of what they read. They imagine the other person saying those words, but if they have only begun dating, they don't really know how they would say it, would they? For example, you might decide to write to your potential new mate, "I hate action movies, lol." This could easily be interpreted in two ways: you either truly loathe watching Jet Li hanging from a crane while still wielding a machine gun and would rather have a root canal - or - you can tolerate the occasional action-packed flick as long as there's popcorn. So there is a difference. Now obviously this isn't the end of the world either but imagine if the difference in interpretations is within a more serious context; "I hate kids.", "I like cats", "I wanted to kill my boss today." Enough said.

Then, of course, there's the dreaded "seen" status of a message. On Messenger, when you send a message and the receiver has supposedly read it, a small sign entitled "seen" appears below. So here is a scenario: a guy sends his new girlfriend a lovey-dovey message. A "seen" appears below soon after but she doesn't answer. As the minutes tick by, he starts to get paranoid. Was it too soon? Did he say something stupid? Was she crossing the street while she looked down at her phone, saw his message, and get hit by a bus?

The scenarios are endless, but this is the reality of dating in today's technologically advanced world. The meaning of every word becomes misconstrued as the words aren't uttered but written. People have lost the ability to flirt as they can safely hide behind their screens while they think up witty remarks. All the while poring over their love interest's online profiles, finding out their birthday, who they've dated before and more. The sort of information that would be better learned over anecdotes while sitting across from the other person. For better or for worse, people have changed along with technology. Finding a happy medium between getting to know someone in person and getting to know their online profile lies somewhere in the wasteland of exes and the blinking notification on our phones.

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