We don’t commit now. We don’t see the point. They’ve always said there are so many fish in the sea, but never before has that sea of fish been right at our fingertips on OkCupid, Tinder, Grindr, Dattch, take your pick. We can order up a human being in the same way we can order up pad thai on Seamless. We think intimacy lies in a perfectly-executed string of emoji. We think effort is a “good morning” text. We say romance is dead, because maybe it is, but maybe we just need to reinvent it. Maybe romance in our modern age is putting the phone down long enough to look in each other’s eyes at dinner. Maybe romance is deleting Tinder off your phone after an incredible first date with someone. Maybe romance is still there, we just don’t know what it looks like now.
When we choose—if we commit—we are still one eye wandering at the options. We want the beautiful cut of filet mignon, but we’re too busy eyeing the mediocre buffet, because choice. Because choice. Our choices are killing us. We think choice means something. We think opportunity is good. We think the more chances we have, the better. But, it makes everything watered-down. Never mind actually feeling satisfied, we don’t even understand what satisfaction looks like, sounds like, feels like. We’re one foot out the door, because outside that door is more, more, more. We don’t see who’s right in front of our eyes asking to be loved, because no one is asking to be loved. We long for something that we still want to believe exists. Yet, we are looking for the next thrill, the next jolt of excitement, the next instant gratification.
We soothe ourselves and distract ourselves and, if we can’t even face the demons inside our own brain, how can we be expected to stick something out, to love someone even when it’s not easy to love them? We bail. We leave. We see a limitless world in a way that no generation before us has seen. We can open up a new tab, look at pictures of Portugal, pull out a Visa, and book a plane ticket. We don’t do this, but we can. The point is that we know we can, even if we don’t have the resources to do so. There are always other tantalizing options. Open up Instagram and see the lives of others, the life we could have. See the places we’re not traveling to. See the lives we’re not living. See the people we’re not dating. We bombard ourselves with stimuli, input, input, input, and we wonder why we’re miserable. We wonder why we’re dissatisfied. We wonder why nothing lasts and everything feels a little hopeless. Because, we have no idea how to see our lives for what they are, instead of what they aren’t.
And, even if we find it. Say we find that person we love who loves us. Commitment. Intimacy. “I love you.” We do it. We find it. Then, quickly, we live it for others. We tell people we’re in a relationship on Facebook. We throw our pictures up on Instagram. We become a “we.” We make it seem shiny and perfect because what we choose to share is the highlight reel. We don’t share the 3am fights, the reddened eyes, the tear-stained bedsheets. We don’t write status updates about how their love for us shines a light on where we don’t love ourselves. We don’t tweet 140 characters of sadness when we’re having the kinds of conversations that can make or break the future of our love. This is not what we share. Shiny picture. Happy couple. Love is perfect.
Then, we see these other happy, shiny couples and we compare. We are The Emoji Generation. Choice Culture. The Comparison Generation. Measuring up. Good enough. The best. Never before have we had such an incredible cornucopia of markers for what it looks like to live the Best Life Possible. We input, input, input and soon find ourselves in despair. We’ll never be good enough, because what we’re trying to measure up to just does not exist. These lives do not exist. These relationships do not exist. Yet, we can’t believe it. We see it with our own eyes. And, we want it. And, we will make ourselves miserable until we get it.
So, we break up. We break up because we’re not good enough, our lives aren’t good enough, our relationship isn’t good enough. We swipe, swipe, swipe, just a bit more on Tinder. We order someone up to our door just like a pizza. And, the cycle starts again. Emoji. “Good morning” text. Intimacy. Put down the phone. Couple selfie. Shiny, happy couple. Compare. Compare. Compare. The inevitable creeping in of latent, subtle dissatisfaction. The fights. “Something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is.” “This isn’t working.” “I need something more.” And, we break up. Another love lost. Another graveyard of shiny, happy couple selfies.
On to the next. Searching for the elusive more. The next fix. The next gratification. The next quick hit. Living our lives in 140 characters, 5 second snaps, frozen filtered images, four minute movies, attention here, attention there. More as an illusion. We worry about settling, all the while making ourselves suffer thinking that anything less than the shiny, happy filtered life we’ve been accustomed to is settling. What is settling? We don’t know, but we don’t want it. If it’s not perfect, it’s settling. If it’s not glittery filtered love, settling. If it’s not Pinterest-worthy, settling.
We realize that this more we want is a lie. We want phone calls. We want to see a face we love absent of the blue dim of a phone screen. We want slowness. We want simplicity. We want a life that does not need the validation of likes, favorites, comments, upvotes. We may not know yet that we want this, but we do. We want connection, true connection. We want a love that builds, not a love that gets discarded for the next hit. We want to come home to people. We want to lay down our heads at the end of our lives and know we lived well, we lived the out of our lives. This is what we want even if we don’t know it yet.
Yet, this is not how we date now. This is not how we love now.