I’ve just screened two very different projects; a new HBO documentary, Hooking Up In The Age of Online Dating…and tonites episode of VICE. My mood was comparatively dark prior to both; today IS 911…and Friday is my ReBirthday.
VICE featured footage recently released, images I’d never before seen. It was arresting. I was looking at locations with which I was personally familiar; side streets, aerial crosswalks (I’d lived here for eight years, I entered the towers daily) …but all was shrouded now in dust and debris and smoke. As the camera panned about, I suddenly realized that the North Tower had yet to fall…and my insides were screaming, “Get Out! Get The Fuck Away!” The images are incredibly resonant for me, almost like watching footage from an old combat patrol that you remember having a very bad outcome.
The HBO dating documentary is upsetting for an entirely different reason…and by writing about it, I surely offer myself up for the judgment of younger players. It illuminates contemporary dating rituals in the age of iPhones and apps…and I find it incredibly depressing. I’m saddened for entire generations now engaging this seminal quest; young people coming of sexual age, in search of connection. It’s not my desire to judge…but clearly I do. If the youngsters interviewed displayed any consistent measure of satisfaction with their new playbook, I could cop to it, “I couldn’t find fulfillment with this process, but hey, if it floats your boat…” But they seemed both underwhelmed and dissatisfied with their own outcomes of modern dating…and understandably so.
When you are young, hormones and connecting are compelling drives…for men and women. Apps that enable infinite random hookups would seem to be crack for any horny teenager…and apparently they are! But equal access to modern internet porn generates images without connection, to be replicated in largely mutually engaged hookups. Objectification, impersonal intimacy without limits. Happy Days? For some perhaps…for a nonce. But I’d imagine, after 10 or 20 or 30 such encounters, one of two things is likely to happen.
1. Getting laid is fun! Word! Emotional connection AND sex is pretty fine as well!
2. But if there is never an emotional, personal connection, AT SOME POINT, the fun quotient must surely dissipate to zero. And apparently, in some cases, it does.
There is seemingly a level playing field; women AND men get to indulge their carnality at will. Swipe, hook up, fuck, move on.
This would seem to be progress, yes? Sexual equality, doesn’t this represent social progress? Perhaps…but at what cost? Who benefited from this new sexual freedom…and what was sacrificed to generate sexual experiences without personal investment?
I can appreciate that these apps served marginalized youth in the LBGTQ + community. Technology offered them a path to find each other and connect, with fewer risks and efficiency. But for the larger community of straight teens and young adults in America, I have to wonder how well they have been served by the possibilities provided by the technology of the past 20 years.
I love sex; I have for all my adult life. But for me, the most satisfying, my most meaningful sexual interactions involved a personal investment and connection. Like I said, I can only speak for myself. But if the takeaway from this documentary is that modern tech has enabled young people all over the world to find others to fuck, without providing or requiring mutual investment in their interpersonal connectivity, I find it hard to regard that as progress.