What we need to do is create new boundaries, devise better guideposts, and enforce new mores for our technological age

What we need to do is create new boundaries, devise better guideposts, and enforce new mores for our technological age

Whether one laments or praises courtship’s decline, it is clear that we have yet to locate a successful replacement for it – evidently it is not as simple as hustling the aging coquette out the door to make way for the vigorous debutante. On the contrary, our current courting practices – if they can be called that – yield an increasing number of those aging coquettes, as well as scores of unsettled bachelors. On college campuses, young men and women have long since ceased formally dating and instead participate in a “hooking up” culture that favors the sexually promiscuous and emotionally disinterested while punishing those intent on commitment. Adults hardly fare better: as the author of a report released in January by the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey told CNN, “on average, half your life is going to be in this single and dating state, and this is a big change from the 1950s.” Many men and women now spend the pling each other’s sexual wares and engaging in fits of serial out-of-wedlock domesticity, never finding a marriageable partner.

In the 1990s, books such as The Rules, which outlined a rigorous and often self-abnegating plan for modern dating, and observers such as Wendy Shalit, who called for greater modesty and the withholding of sexual favors by women, represented a well-intentioned, if doomed, attempt to revive the old courting boundaries. Cultural observers today, however, claim we are in the midst of a new social revolution that requires looking to the future for solutions, not the past. “We’re in a period of dramatic change in our mating practices,” Barbara Dafoe Whitehead told a reporter for U.S. News & World Report recently. Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, is the author of Why There are No Good Men Left, one in a booming mini-genre of books that offer road maps for the revolution. Whitehead views technology as one of our best solutions – Isolde can now find her Tristan on the Internet (though presumably with a less tragic finale). “The traditional mating system where people met someone in their neighborhood or college is pretty much dead,” Whitehead told CBS recently. “What we have is a huge population of working singles who have limited opportunities to go through some elaborate courtship.”

Although Whitehead is correct in her diagnosis of the problem, neither she nor the mavens of modesty offer a satisfactory answer to this new challenge. A return to the old rules and rituals of courtship – however appealing in theory – is neither practical nor desirable for the majority of men and women. But the uncritical embrace of technological solutions to our romantic malaise – such as Internet dating – is not a long-term solution either. First, however, we must understand the peculiar challenges to romantic success posed by our technologies.

Full Disclosure

A lthough not the root cause of our romantic malaise, our communication technologies are at least partly culpable, for they encourage the erosion of the boundaries that are necessary for the growth of successful relationships. Our technologies enable and often promote two detrimental forces in modern relationships: the demand for total transparency and a bias toward the over-sharing of personal information.

As one writer confessed in the New York Observer, after meeting an attractive man at a midtown bar: “Like many of my twentysomething peers in New York’s dating jungle, I have begun to use Google, as well as other online search engines, to perform secret background checks on potential mates

With the breakdown of the old hierarchies and boundaries that characterized courtship, there are far fewer opportunities to glean information about the vast world of strangers we encounter daily. We can little rely on town gossips or networks of extended kin for background knowledge; there are far fewer geographic boundaries marking people from “the good part of town”; no longer can we read sartorial signals, such as a well-cut suit or an expensive shoe, to place people as in earlier ages. This is all, for the most part, a good thing. But how, then, do people find out about each other? Few self-possessed people with an Internet connection could resist answering that question with one word: Google. “To google” – now an acceptable if ill-begotten verb – is the practice of typing a person’s name into an Internet search engine to find out https://gorgeousbrides.net/pt/blog/conhecer-mulheres-asiaticas/ what the world knows and says about him or her. It’s not perfect, but it’s a discreet way of obtaining important, useless and sometimes bizarre information about people in Manhattan – and it’s proven to be as reliable as the scurrilous gossip you get from friends.”

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