Traditionally, signalling that you love someone has been an expensive process. As the story from the Panchatantra tells us, the beautiful feathers that a peacock displays in order to attract a mate are not cheap. Male black widow spiders offer themselves as food in their attempt to copulate. As numerous movies from the 80s and 90s illustrate, even humans have gone as far as using their own blood—as ink to write love letters. But today, we swipe right twice and expect to fall in love.
When I was in my mid-teens, I remember listening to Feel by Robbie Williams every evening, all summer, trying to contain my one-sided feelings for a boy from summer camp. Because in that pain lay validation of being in love. By next summer, I was busy devising strategies to communicate with that boy so my parents wouldn’t find out—missed calls, 1-6-1, blank calls, Morse coded rings and what not. In all this secrecy, effort and thrill, lay validation that I was truly in love. But today, I could just right swipe this boy and get cozy with him, without having to wait years for the crush to germinate into love, marriage and everything else that would allow me to intertwine with him without any guilt. But is this new jet-speed coupling really love? Or is it just another arrangement?
It was early 2003, and I remember spending months in anticipation of my crush being reciprocated. It wasn’t easy, since there was fear of failure. Fear, mind you, not rejection. Women seldom put themselves in a position of being rejected, since women walk the fence to lead men on until men have succumbed to finally asking them out, even though it was the woman who initially laid eyes on the man. Men, on the other hand, wait endlessly for signals before they ask women out, due to the fear of rejection. What if all the Coffee Day dates and PVR corner seats only mean that the girl will be inspired to come around and tie you a rakhi next August?
But, in this fear and anticipation, lies positive validation for the love in the relationship.
Apart from making sourcing easier, modern day dating apps have also helped eliminate the fear of rejection from the process—women only find out if you liked them, if they liked you too. You’d think this makes falling in love easier, right? Wrong, because, the fear of rejection intensifies how strongly we feel about someone and, in the process, brews love.
Having rejection taken out of the equation reduces it to something of an empty, one-note transaction—she swipes right, you swipe right, and then you have a match. If both of your commutes to work are long and boring, you might just end up texting a bit. However, once your stop arrives, it’s just a forgotten conversation thread in your chat. Until you go on a deleting spree when you’ve had no matches, you’re fed up, and you start re-thinking why you signed up on this app in the first place.
Although not very intuitive, when it becomes easy to signal to someone that you are interested in them, it somehow becomes less special. And then when you take out the fear of rejection too, the pursuit is all the less substantial for it. Suddenly, the transaction becomes self-defeating. If you are an average-looking person, and you have a “match” on Tinder, you can’t help but wonder if you aimed too low. Given the low cost of copulating today, people adopt the spray and pray strategy. But because you know everyone else thinks just like you, you then believe that you are less likely to find “real love” on such apps, thus raising the very real possibility that as far as real love is concerned, these dating apps become markets for lemons.
Even if this were a market for lemons, we wouldn’t need to bear the brunt of it for too long, since it’s easy to move on. Thus, while technology has taken the pain out of everything in our lives today, it has stripped us of pleasures too, because pain is an integral part of love. Love isn’t supposed to be a painless checkout process. It hurts to fall in love, it hurts to stay in love and it hurts to fall out of it. If someone’s promising you love devoid of all pain, it’s not love, it’s probably just another arrangement.
For hundreds of years, we’ve been very comfortable with arrangements. For instance, arrangements organized by relatives to meet our future spouse. Love, on the other hand, only belonged to the most beautiful women or the bravest men. Today, dating apps have democratized falling in love and made it accessible to even the shiest, most awkward, most lemoniest lemon in the market—almost to the point where we look down upon the traditional arranged marriage. Everybody wants a love marriage and we think being on dating apps somehow facilitates that. However, if you think about the process of getting into a relationship through these apps, it just seems like yet another arrangement—one arranged by an algorithm instead of an over-enthu aunty.
It is all very easy. But is it love?
Priyanka Bharadwaj, author, is the founder of Marriage Broker Auntie, a wing(wo)man service for arranged marriages. Founded in 2013 as a personalised matching service, Marriage Broker Auntie now focuses on coaching people and helping them make decisions on finding a life partner.
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