One thing that happens when you break up with a boyfriend of two years is that you suddenly find yourself with a lot of spare time on your hands. Now, the time and energy that used to be devoted to things like “couple night” and “back rubs” has suddenly become hours spent “nurturing my inner woman” and talking on the phone to my mom. Inevitably, cultivating such an enlightened new perspective on life eventually leads, if not to cat ownership, to the realization that being single is a completely different ballgame than being in a relationship.
Granted, a lot of things have changed in the two years since I’ve last been single and maybe, in all honesty, I’ve just been so removed that even the most typical dating encounter still feels slightly foreign to me. However, after talking about it with most of my group of friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just me, and therefore something bigger – I’m assuming – is at work here.
That’s right, I’m totally going to rip on the Internet. I love YouTube-ing anything Sister Act and creeping message boards, too, but as it is with everything, there’s a downside. Call it a double-edged sword if you will, but we can’t dismiss the fact that the Internet has forever changed how we interact with one another.
Take, for instance, social networking sites. It’s not surprising that we are drawn to these “alternate realities” when you consider the fact that they allow us to continually edit and refine how others perceive us – thus increasing our chances of being found desirable by any number of strangers. In many ways, it is an ideal situation: No one risks being vulnerable, so no one, really, can be rejected and, best of all, no one wastes more of their time than they absolutely have to.
However, what happens when we are given unlimited access to millions of other individuals whose desire to connect is solely due to their having a MySpace profile? What value is put on relationships when there is a tacit agreement that the next person (should you find yourself single) is already there, poking you over Facebook? With the way the Internet has shaped our culture, we have suddenly become – in essence – a disposable commodity, and we seem to relish this.
My heart isn’t totally black yet, and I realize that true intimacy and connection does exist; it happens all the time. On the other hand, I think we are settling for less genuine methods of intimacy – now more so than ever – simply because it’s easier. It’s a vicious cycle: We’re desperate to connect because it’s become so commonplace not to; yet when such a high cost is associated with intimacy, we’re less likely to risk reaching out first. Because after all, if the going gets rough, there’s always that fresh babe you just found on Facebook.
Kat Hargreaves welcomes comments at [email protected]