Clammy palms, a racing heart, and butterflies in the stomach – almost everyone knows this state. Love… Getting into a love relationship today is entirely different from the times of our ancestors. It was different only 20 years ago. What has changed? What is love in the time of Tinder?
These days, we stumble upon “love” with every step we take. We watch romantic movies that are served on the silver screen and read books that deliver us love stories seething with desire. The word love in various contexts appears in every corner of social media. That vision of love that is presented everywhere awakens in us faith in the sense of searching for our other half. We imagine that love is like Cupid’s arrow – it knocks us down and does not allow us to resist the love’s charm. But love is just a word until someone gives it meaning. I asked my friends for their definition of love. What did they say? “Love is refreshing like a morning breeze” without hesitation, states Enes. Marijana is sure that, “Love is probably the most debated word, yet ironically enough, it is not for our brain to define it, but rather our heart“. Marlena says, “Love is, simply speaking, a deep emotional attachment to another person – a powerful and unconditional one. When you love someone, you’re being totally selfless with them – thinking of their well-being and happiness first, before your own.” Love is not easy to describe in a few words. It can be an unusual feeling, relationship, or state that results from the overlapping of biological, chemical, social, historical, or even economic factors. There are as many definitions of love as there are people in the world.
Much of how we understand and feel love comes from the values we grew up with and the relationships we experienced as children. When we start looking at the history of relationships and their various forms, it turns out that the commonly created vision of romantic love, based on the free choice of a partner, is a fundamentally new concept. It was not until the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, with industrialization and the accompanying vision of a society built on economic freedom, that the modern concept of a marriage based on love between partners was born. Previously, one was guided mainly by rational premises when entering a relationship. Feelings were left behind.
Nowadays, we expect our partner to meet many needs such as closeness, tenderness, entertainment, decision-making, attention, and care, which before were provided thanks to belonging to a community of friends and relatives. The chances of creating a relationship that meets all our needs are a bit unrealistic. Moreover, we hear more and more that humans are not made to match up once and for all. Adding to the fact that we live longer and longer, a “lifetime” relationship may not last 30-40 years but over 50-60 years. Millennials who grew up watching with flushed faces Disney animations have become victims of the vision of romantic love. They very well know the concept of the “half-orange” that you need to meet to complete you and a love that never ends. The new generations probably perceive love a bit differently. They have less romanticism and less faith in “happy ever afters” as they experienced unstable parental relationships more often than others. Because of this, they also might feel that the ties are meaningless.
When talking about love in the 21st century, it is impossible not to mention our closest companion – a mobile phone. We can find hundreds of dating apps that allow us to explore and establish relationships on the Internet. However, the almost unlimited choice may come with some risk. Because how would we know who is our future significant other? Dating apps can also make it difficult to stay in a stable relationship. Because what happens when a relationship crisis hits us or something goes wrong? Will we “accidentally” run the app to see if there are any better opportunities? A huge role in changing the perception of love play also streaming services such as Netflix. The relationships in the TV series are shown much more realistic, and love is not so obvious there.
Free love movement from the 60s, popularization of the contraceptive pill, LGBTQ+ have also changed our understanding of interpersonal relationships and sexuality. But the changes that we have been observing in recent years are not only due to legislative and social issues. One of the important aspects is the approach to the body and nudity, and in recent years also to pornography. Porn-like sex, one-night stands, closeness, and commitment issues – this is what people who want to be in a relationship face.
Are we struggling with a love crisis? Love in the 21st century definitely seems problematic. Perhaps because we live in a maze of signals and different visions of love, we are more and more lost and, at the same time, unable to engage in a relationship. Should we just accept that love is difficult and stop caring about finding our Mr./Miss Right? We should for sure live as we please, but we should also be more attentive to the needs of those around us, not just our needs.
Olga Kamińska: #LOVE. Jak kochać w XXI wieku.
The Guardian: Love in the 21st century