Ctrl: On Modern Love

Caio Brighenti, Maroon-News Staff

One of the significant stories of the 21st century is the story of how humans have learned to speak through computers. In this short century, personal technology has gone from the role of convenient specialty tools to mediators for basically all human interactions. No longer are computers simply mechanical number-crunchers—they are fundamentally the foundation of how we relate to one another.

How would we speak with each other, if not for phones? Sure, we haven’t abolished face-to-face conversations, but consider the frequency with which we text or call each other. How would your professor relay assignments to you, if not for email? Could you maintain as close of a relationship with your parents right now, if not for technology? How would you stay up-to-date with the lives of those around you, if not for Instagram and Facebook?

My aim here isn’t to condemn the extent to which we have allowed technology to mediate our relationships, but rather to highlight simply how entrenched it has become. And nowhere is this reliance on technology more evident than in a budding romance.

At this point, the experience of nervously shooting off an overly thought-out text to a crush, followed by the gut wrenching anticipation that follows as you watch the three little dots—indicating the other person is typing—pop up is practically a universal experience. Who among us hasn’t stressed out over how many “ha”s to add to our “haha”s? Or over Snapchat streaks and best friend lists? In the most
millennial fashion imaginable, the markers of status in a relationship have nearly all become tech-mediated. From Facebook relationship statuses (though thankfully this practice seems to have all but died off), to commenting on each other’s Instagram photos, to even the holy grail of young love—reciprocal meme-tagging.

While perhaps one might look down upon the way in which we’ve let technology seep into our relationships, I find it charming. Our love is unique and distinctly of our generation. Sure, we can look fondly on the olden days of classic romance, but I’m all for seeing the beauty in what we have, and looking to the future.

And who can say what the future holds? In full Valentine’s Day spirit, this week I decided to watch a romantic movie. Ultimately, I settled on “Her”, a brilliant movie that anyone with a Netflix account should promptly watch. In it, we watch the lovable insecure character of Theodore Twombly—a professional love-letter writer—stumble his way through a series of relationships until he finally finds true love. The only thing is, Theo’s love is with a computer.

When I first read the synopsis of the movie, I expected a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of lonely people allowing love to fall too deeply into the realm of tech. But, the movie is so much more than that. Through the film’s 120 minutes, we watch Theo and his OS girlfriend Samantha grapple with the core issue at hand: Is their love real? While the obvious answer seems to be no, it seems impossible to discard what the pair feels as simply wishful delusions. Perhaps the source of my hesitance comes from the same place as does the older generation’s critique of our generation’s love.

Surely, despite all the technological mediations, love must still be tangible, physical and between people in order to be real love. Or, we can just accept that love will be whatever it wants to be. As one of the characters in “Her” so simply puts, “we’re all only here briefly, so while we’re here, let’s just allow ourselves joy.”

Contact Caio Brighenti at [email protected]