*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.
This is the first article in a 5-part series on dating and relationships in the 21st century
How would one explain Tinder or OkCupid to someone from Victorian-era England? Such a concept would be completely alien to them, swiping left or right to choose a potential partner. Even more confusing would be explaining the social dynamics. Would they even understand the concepts of casual sex, the relaxing of gender norms, and the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution?
There is a certain dynamic to the process of dating, courtship, and relationships. While they are near-universal traits of human nature, they are also heavily informed and shaped by our culture. The method of choosing a partner is going to be different for someone living in Victorian England than it will be for someone in modern day America. There are different rules, procedures, gestures which carry cultural significance. What exactly does that mean in regards to dating in the 21st century?
It is impossible to divorce the role of technology from modern dating, as even offline dating carries with it an online component. Before the age of the smartphone, couples that were separated physically were much more limited in terms of communication. Even in the early age of cell phones, technology's influence has been profound. Now, the barrier between individuals in a relationship has been lowered. Long distance couples can share text, images, emojis, and videos. These are received instantaneously, without the delays that accompanied love letters of old.
As the methods of communication have changed, so too have the social norms surrounding dating and courtship. The more rigid processes of bygone eras has loosened into a more flexible nature. While rules and social mores exist, they're far more relaxed than previous generations. Rules regarding disclosing specific information, the right time to become sexually and emotionally intimate, and displays of affection are left open for each individual couple to deal with.
In addition to more traditional monogamous relationships, there also exist alternative forms of relationships, such as open relationships and polyamory. More information than ever about these kinds of relationships exists online should one be so inclined as to experiment with them. There is also the oft-discussed “hookup culture” and the increased visibility and availability of casual sex.
Overall, the landscape is very malleable. With many old rules changing, there are new frontiers being explored. The influence of technology makes communication far easier than ever thought possible. Additionally, with this communication, different types of relationships can be explored. The modern dating scene is one of great potential.