Love and technology – one is personal and emotional, the other is inanimate and indifferent. It’s a funny mix. There was a time, not too long ago, when emails, instant and text messaging were considered novel. I suppose people would have pondered how those new mediums of communication would affect human relationships. Around the same time, you could begin to express love and affection by emoticons of all sorts, customise flashy e-cards instead of buying paper cards, and send annoying “nudges” that could cause another’s computer to crash. As dial up turned into broadband, and mobile internet became increasingly accessible and reliable, voice and video chat were added to the mix. Social media grew in popularity, and brought on questions of what and how much to declare on your relationship status, of how publically should you should interact with the significant other on walls and comments, of whether sharing “couple selfies” was cute or narcissistic. Insignificant, yes, but nevertheless tricky questions to work through.
Here are some relatively new mixes of love and technology that caught my attention. Mostly anecdotal from friends and friends of friends, or amusing but pointless articles online.
1. Online dating – there’s a surprising proportion of friends who met their partners, or ex-partners, through dating sites. Even those who were once quite opposed to the idea. It’s interesting how the different sites operate, and how that changes the pool of potentials and their interactions. The advantage of a site like eHarmony, for example, is that the lengthy questionnaire better matches you with someone who may share the same interests and values, and apparently gives you a pool of less seedy singles, who are more likely to be looking for a committed relationship – because they are actually paying for the service.
2. Grindr – the invasive nature of modern phones with a “location service” makes it possible to have an app that links people within close proximity together. So it combines anonymity, with the potential of still meeting people in real life if you wanted to. Apparently the ability to make clear your gender preferences instead of relying on your “gaydar” (which could be potentially offensive if it’s inaccurate) makes this especially appealing. How it could be awkward though, when you see a colleague, or even a patient you’d seen earlier, on the app.
3. Tinder – similar app to Grindr, Blendr. What interested me was how it mines data from your Facebook account but profiles are presented simply as first name, age, and number of mutual friends. Oh, and your profile picture which fills up most of the Tindr profile. “You mean there’s just a picture?!” Yes that’s all folks. Swipe one direction for like, another for not, based on a photo that hopefully is a true and accurate representation of the individual. We heard the true story of a guy who went to “park his car” after meeting a girl he liked on Tindr, who was several times the size of what was depicted in her profile picture. He never came back. Who should we sympathise with?
4. Wingman – upcoming app similar to above but links you up with fellow travellers on the same plane. Sometime ago, I did in fact have some lengthy chats on the plane with strangers. Once, I had a great chat from take off to landing with a lady who worked as a teacher in China. I don’t know what I had to say (in my teens, I was very shy with strangers!), I don’t remember if we spoke in Chinese or English, and I can’t see what we had in common except our ethnicity, which we also shared with the majority of customers on the flight. Another memorable one was a practicing psychologist who started singing because it helped with plane phobia, and the same stranger also had autism spectrum disorder. But I’d imagine even if you had a “match” it might be hard to spend time together if you didn’t happen to have a spare seat next to you. Possibility of love could make a journey interesting, and the lengthy hours might facilitate D&M’s (deep and meaningfuls), but it’s also hard to make an escape when you’re in a cabin. The lack of readily available Wi-Fi on board to access the app might be another issue.
5. Brainy version of above – if the dating sites and apps aren’t giving the results you’re looking for, you can analyse the data yourself, and program an algorithm to find your perfect match. It worked for Amy Webb!
6. Broapp – this is a different use of technology. Basically you set up some pre-typed messages, or use the default ones that come with the program, and time messages to be sent to your girlfriend throughout the day, to appear attentive even if you’re busy hanging out with the bros. The app detects locations that it should be switched off, working out, for example, that the messages shouldn’t be sent when you are already at the girlfriend’s house. There used to be an old Nokia phone that had options to respond to calls with pre-written messages along the lines of “I’m currently driving”, or “I’m busy right now, will call you back later.” I’ve received some accidental automated messages, and being someone who reads too much into each word and punctuation, it smelt of insincerity. I think (hope) this app is supposed to be humorous and satirical rather than serious.
Just for the record, I haven’t used these to find or maintain relationships. Not that I have a particular view on using, or not using technology for love. Love, romantic love that is, like other relationships, can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Depending who you ask for the task, a program may work as well as a friend acting as a matchmaker. Or it might not. A handwritten note is nice, as is a thoughtfully typed one. Or you could argue if texting is too much effort, a person is even less likely to write anything on pen and paper. Definitely prefer non automated though!