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Thursday, April 11, 2024

How Technology Is Changing the Way We Love

Let’s just get it out of the way: my wife and I met each other online. This was more than 15 years ago, when “online” meant either chatrooms or some sort of personals-based website. (It was the latter.) We had the internet, but not in our pockets; texting and emoji had yet to worm their way into the mainstream, so we learned each other’s rhythms before read receipts and the tyranny of the three dots. There was no pin-dropping, no swiping, no Instagram archaeology. Instead, we flirted over email—long, performatively casual, even more performatively jokey emails. If we wanted to learn about each other, it was either those emails or whatever meager scraps Google could scrounge up about the other person. We didn’t know any other way.

We also didn’t know any other people who had met like we had, so we felt a little weird about it. OK, I felt a little weird about it. I made up a fake meet-cute story and everything, just so I didn’t have to tell people the truth: that she had seen my profile and emailed me with a joke about the New York Times crossword puzzle. I got over that false stigma quickly enough, but even looking back at that brief period, I'm stunned that I thought anything about it warranted secret.

Either way, though, it's moot—because, as the last decade has made clear, my wife and I were simply early adopters.

As with everything else in our lives, the changes of the 21st century have completely upended romance. People seek love online, find intimacy in new ways; they use streaming and on-demand services to ease the geographic want of long-distance relationships. More and more, especially here at WIRED, they off-label workday productivity tools to smooth the systems of our domestic lives. They strive for happiness in themselves before finding it in others, and expect storytellers to do the same. There's enough dystopia out there already—we have little use for it in our fictions, let alone our hearts' journeys.

So, as we did last month with our literary lives, we'll be spending some time this week reckoning with the state of love in the WIRED world. After all, summer's drawing to a close. There's no better time for casting hesitation aside than now, before fall rolls in. And maybe this time, consider sending an email.

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