There is another AI that we need to be wary of and it has nothing to do with eminent technological singularity. Behold yet another danger social media poses to young people, one reminiscent of an early 2000’s news special entitled: Do you know what your kids are doing online? The answer is almost always nudes or sexting but that has nothing to do with this. I’m talking about the possible extinction of human connection, worse than hookup culture. It’s a trend we seem to confirm the existence of in the macro, with celebrity relationships rife with publicity stunts and social climbing, but what about the micro? Are we simply ignorant of the fact that the artificiality of social media has invaded the relationships of common folk? Or, perhaps we’re afraid to admit that even people like Dirk & Evian, that annoying couple from your hometown, have the same perfected online aesthetic as a Jenner-Kardashian. In the land of social media, where humans are brands, even the most sacred, intimate forces of nature are fair game.
#couplegoals is an insidious trend. I know you’ve seen it before too. A couple you follow online looks nothing like the couple you know in real life. In person it’s black mascara tears, late night bitching sessions and drunken fights in the hallways of parties. Oh, but online? Sappy, romantic captions talking about “soul connections” set to soft grunge filters and his & hers lattes with hearts written in the foam. Get the picture now? Our interpersonal disconnect has gone beyond emotionally numb hookup culture to an adulation of an almighty Instagram-worthy relationship to rule them all.
Whereas hookup culture suffers from the rebuke of shallowness, Instagram relationships seem to thrive off it. Social media has turned human connection into a series of aesthetically pleasing photo ops, and it is inspiring millennials to date for the sake of online envy. #couplegoals is much more effective in rousing the Fear-Of-Missing-Out misery of their peers that millennials seem to absorb through photosynthesis. You can only get so much attention with yourself but with a significant other, you could have your friends and family foaming at the mouth at the sight of you killing it at life. Activities include going to “cool” places, eating “cool” food, wearing “cool” clothes and looking so fucking “cool” doing it. And you must be hot, have I mentioned that you must be hot? It’s a completely voluntary and mutually beneficial transaction in the senses of likes and other virtual accolades but it’s a hollow farce of simulated connection all the same. I guess I’m asking, just as the Black-Eyed Peas poetically mused, where is the love?
The hopeless romantic thing has always been strong in me, but I have nothing if I don’t have hope for the future of love. I know because I’ve experienced it before—along with a broken heart—and it was real. Hard to describe, like magic or God or how the universe has some sort of electric force to it but its real. The connection I grew up pining for was epic, tragic and complicated. It might very well be a consequence of not living through war and strife, a result of an easier existence overall. Why should things be so hard? Social media lets us connect to each other people in ways we were never afforded before. It lets us control when we want to be seen and how we want to be perceived. However, if we continue this trend of only pursuing romantic relationships for the looks of it, how do we expect to form the basic human connection we need to survive? It is no coincidence that depression, anxiety and social isolation are so rampant in our society today, especially in young people.
These potpourri relationships (smell sweet and look visually pleasing but are utterly fucking useless) advertise a romance free from adversity and complication. But, like everything on social media, it’s just another sparkly, well packaged dream to sell you. Yeah, it looks pretty from the outside but true human connection will never have such clean edges. Surely not when raw visceral emotions are at play between two flawed beasts constantly battling against their own self-interests. Doesn’t that seem so much more fascinating than the glossy window display relationships of social media? Why not bring back the messiness of human existence. The cult of online persona has made us believe that for things to be worthwhile, they need to be viewed by everyone. Life shouldn’t fit into a perfectly idealized square. Doing things for the sincerity of the moment is more real to me than anything I have ever come across on social media. More and more, I find myself valuing things that are just for me, witnessed in real time between two people and no one else, but I am in no way perfect and I still struggle with wanting an expertly curated life.
If I could offer a remedy to our generation it would be to pursue relationships with an impetus stronger than something as fleeting and vapid as aesthetic. Be with someone because they know the deepest darkest corners of your mind and they still look at you with admiration in their eyes, kissing you on the forehead and letting you drool on their pillow. Someone who is cognizant of all the ugly parts of you and still trudges through the muck of life with you because that my friend is the absolute miraculous beauty of love. There’s no filter in the world that could possible encapsulate the gift of interhuman connection and if it means that you might have to skip out on settling with the hologram of a good relationship for the sake of a genuine one.