Let me start off by saying that this isn’t a cry for help or a pity party. Let me also say that this isn’t meant to turn into a some millenial version of Bridget Jones Diary. This is a one-time blogpost with an introspection on the internet’s impact on relationships in my experience.
The 1975 released their album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships towards the end of last year. Up until then, I thought of them as your typical English indie-pop band… along the same lines as the Ting Tings and CHVRCHES. Just a feel good band.
But then this 15-song album came out. Which, nowadays, is pretty massive. Not only is it massive, but its incredibly complex. It explores more aspects of the human condition than anything else they’ve released. The lyrics are clever. The music is great. The songs touch on themes of identity, grief, guilt, addiction, and, of course, relationships.
With lines like “She said that I should have "liked" it/I told her, "I only use it sometimes"/Except when I need reminding/I'm petrified," (TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME), to “Why would you believe you could control how you're perceived/When at your best you're intermediately versed in your own feelings?” (Sincerity is Scary) to “Am I me through geography?/A face collapsed through entropy,” (I Always Want to Die Sometimes), Matty Healy questions what is and isn’t a relationship, explores real and fake connection, and muses on how the internet has impacted all of that. I’ve listened to this over and over again, and I’m still finding new things that I didn’t notice or relating to a line that I didn’t connect to before.
My most clear connection is the title itself, “Online Relationships.” In the romantic sense, its no secret that I’ve been single, but trying to date for the past few years. Some days its a major blessing, some days its a major curse. I don’t love it, I don’t hate it. It is what it is. In the filial sense, I’ve got friends and family, and I love getting to keep in contact with them through the internet. Despite being halfway across the country from a decent amount of them, I know they’re just a gif or emoji away.
But one aspect I hate about online relationships is dating apps. LORD. HAVE. MERCY.
It is the absolute and deepest pits for an introverted empath like myself. I like investing into a person. I enjoy feeling out the vibe of and with a person. You can’t do that with their profile. I’m not knocking those who love it or who have found their person through it. I have friends/family that have gotten married to someone they met online, and their relationships are beautiful and I’m sincerely happy for them.
I just personally struggle with it a lot. As much as I try, being casual just isn’t my thing. Like I said earlier, I like investing into people… and doing that with multiple people is overwhelming and doing that with a person who only wants to be invested in sparingly is disheartening. I’ve probably deleted and re-uploaded dating apps at least 50 times since I started. Yet, its a necessary evil when your immediate network is all married or in serious relationships, or when your friend zone is very, very wide. These apps get me out of my current social group(s) and expand my network.
But the problem with this increase of people to choose from is that there’s too many people to choose from. And those people you’re choosing from… also have their own massive amount of people to choose from.
So, with all these options to swipe or tap through, you have to make sure that your profile is at the top of its game. You have literally less than two seconds to make an impression. TWO. SECONDS. Thats not even enough time to brush your teeth, and you’re going to formulate an opinion of somebody?
You have to make sure your first few pictures are amazing quality and that your bio is funny, but not too long. You may match, but you might not get a response. You may go on a “date,” but they might just end up wanting a body to keep them occupied. You may go on a few actual dates, but again, you’re just one of many options. There could be someone more pretty or intelligent or satisfying or whatever quality out there.
Its not to say that I haven’t been the “they” in that last paragraph. I’m just as guilty. I get busy and don’t have time or don’t want to respond. I get lonely and just want affection. I get picky and start listing what could be better with a person. Its not just a guy thing. Its not just a girl thing. Its an everybody’s thing. We all crave human attention, but we’ve lost some of our capacity to truly pay attention to humans themselves. Instead, we pay attention to our screens, thinking it’ll give us another person, or even itself, to keep us occupied.
Again, I am more than guilty of this as well. My screen has become multiple things to me: a means for communication, a source of information, and a fount of entertainment...and on the flip side, an excuse for disengagement, an instigator for unhealthy comparison, and a facade for loneliness.
All of this to say that all forms of relationships have completely changed because of the internet, regardless of how much you use it. Relationships can begin with an image and end with a text message… or they can continue with memes and funny videos. Its ridiculous. Its amazing. Its crazy. And that’s all I have to say about that.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, I thank you for paying attention to my humanity. It wasn’t very brief, but then again, neither is the album. Go listen to the 1975’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.