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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Column: Virtual valentine

Tomorrow, hearts will be sent aflutter with flowers, chocolate, candle-lit dinners and the like. But not all hearts will be so delighted. For long-distance lovers and singletons, Valentine’s Day is just 24 inglorious hours of very public displays of affection. And on a campus teeming with primed 20-somethings, the parade of love paraphernalia will be unavoidable.

Sulking in moderation is acceptable, but it may be worthwhile to consider tomorrow a day of reflection. It’s likely that our notions of love are starry-eyed, thanks in equal part to romantic comedies and the canons of English literature. Relationship dynamics are changing. So, for the purposes of modernity, I think it appropriate to discuss the impetus of these shifting relations between us — the internet.

Communication is the key to a successful relationship, and the web is the key to modern communication. How do we reconcile technology with something as personal as our romantic affiliations?

There’s an ongoing debate on the matter. Do more closed or more open networks cultivate genuine connections between people? With something as large and vast as the web, if you’re looking for love, it’s there to be found. But what kind of love? Therein lies the distinction.

Intimate networks intended to nurture close relationships are growing simultaneously with large online communities that thrive on their users’ anonymity and the desire for quantity over quality.

I find those closed networks to work best for parties that already know each other well, particularly the LDR — the long-distance relationship. Having been away for months at a time from my own significant other, I understand all too well the monotony of incessant texting and calling. Maintaining an LDR requires subtlety, variation and surprise.

Path indulges all three of those things. It’s an application developed for iPhone and Android that is intended to be, “a limited, intimate, more personal network” which is, indeed, quite true. My network, for example, consists just of myself and one other. Path organizes — and elegantly so — messages, photos and locations in such a way that feels as natural as conversation in real life.

But maybe you don’t want real life. Maybe you don’t yet have a network of two, or maybe you don’t like to know too much. You like the mystery. I can’t continue without mentioning Craigslist personals here, the most primitive network that the web has to offer. The personals can be as innocent as “seeking hiking partner on weekends” or as salacious as “must be British and DTF tonight!” which is why, for most young people with their whole lives ahead of them, I think it best to avoid online classifieds altogether.

But there is an alternative that I was surprised to find frighteningly popular among 20-somethings.

I am new, apparently, to the world of Grindr, a location-based networking application for gay men that allows users to find each other within close proximity. The service has become so widespread (boasting millions of users worldwide) that its developer launched Blendr, an app for its lesbian and straight members, last spring. On the one hand, the app is freakishly calculative, refreshing its pages as you move about. But on the other hand, it offers the soothing affirmation that lone wolves are, as a matter of fact, not at all alone.

If the specificity of geosocial networking seems all too impersonal and the chumminess of closed networking comes across as too personal, look to the gray market vagueries of Missed Connections. They are available for nearly every city (yes, even Davis) and provide hope for those looking to reconnect a serendipitous encounter.

So, tomorrow, after ‘Linsanity’ takes on the Raptors and re-runs of Bridget Jones’ Diary stops playing, I encourage you to beat the blues. Open your laptops, and meet the many solutions of the internet.

Suga mamas switching it up and taking their men out tomorrow night need to contact NICOLE NGUYEN at niknguyen@ucdavis.edu for props.

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