echnology and big ideas have changed the world we live in. Our phones tells us what the weather forecast is, reminds us of our appointments, and helps us get in shape. You can listen to music, watch videos, and encounter culture on your smart device. Your phone helps you connect with friends, family, and can even help you get a date.
But as wonderful as your smart phone is, it’s actually sabotaging your romantic relationships. Today’s technology is hindering (not helping) romance. According to psychotherapist Esther Perel, apps like Instagram and Tinder may really be hurting our chances at authentic relationships.
In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Perel explained why she thinks online dating and dating apps have transformed romance today. It all has to do with too many choices, she said. “If I have a choice between two people, it’s rather limiting. In the village, I had a choice between two people. Later, I had a choice between six or 10 or 15 people, and that was a lot better. When I have a choice between 1,000 people, it’s crippling.” Perel calls this notion “romantic consumerism.” Because of all the options out there, we’re constantly checking for something better somewhere else.
“I’m, on the one hand, looking for the soulmate, the one-and-only,” Psychotherapist Esther Perel explained. “That one-and-only is supposed to be the one that’s going to to fulfill you. It’s not just a person with whom you’re going to have the basic needs of Maslow, not even the belonging needs of Maslow — it’s the self-fulfilling needs. But you’re constantly checking there is nothing better there.”
Because of their relationship with technology and the numerous dating apps someone can have downloaded all at once, this changes how we commit to each other. For single people today, the sign of commitment comes in the form of deleting dating apps. There’s no greater sign of commitment than stopping the interaction with other potential romantic relationships and deleting the opportunities for more searches. But the road to commitment is a road often left untraveled today.
With endless choices of apps, uncountable lists of people to encounter online, this leads to what Perel refers to as stable ambiguity. “This means I like you. I date you. We meet on occasion. But I’m simmering a few others as well. I’m with you just enough so I don’t have to feel lonely.”
One fear that many people with their smartphone in their pocket are facing is FOMO – the fear of missing out. So instead of committing to one person and pursuing an intentional relationship with him or her, single people will have conversations and interactions with many people all going on at once. Thanks to our smart phones, we have access to a constant feed of potential romantic partners. And while this “simmering” of interaction with others can help curb the feeling of loneliness, it’s also a huge roadblock to commitment. A single, committed romantic relationship requires giving up some freedoms, after all.