Is Love obsolete?
Paris, February 2023
A case study of love in the digital age
During my latest market research in Florence, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world, surprisingly I asked myself: does romanticism still exist?
In this city named for one who loves, I experienced two puzzling scenarios just a few minutes apart. Fate or a sign of our times? I’ll let you be the judge.
First, in a small restaurant known for its marvelous Tuscan cuisine and then at a terrace for a last drink on the edge of a warm summer night, two couples, one French, one from Eastern Europe, enjoy some dolce vita moments, so precious for burgeoning love. And yet…
Do they love each other, face to face? Holding hands?
Their eyes and thoughts dive deeply into their smartphones, their hands actively scroll their touchscreens. No words are exchanged, no signs of love, affection or even disregard. No kind gestures all dinner long, nor over drinks on a romantic summer night.
They are both connected remotely to the world yet at the same time disconnected from each other, tending to what happens online but not to what happens where they physically are. Instantly liking moments that others live miles away and simultaneously unable to seize their own moment and appreciate it.
As if they would like to be elsewhere, they like on social media, it looks more important to them than to love each other. They text also, it counts more than talking to each other.
Is drowning in image feeds chosen by algorithms more enjoyable than swimming in a loved one’s eyes?
Seduction, romanticism, love all in all, are they obsolete and endangered?Are they about to give way to the immediacy of posts, tweets and other unsubstantial notifications?
The Beatles used to sing “All You Need is Love”. Should we admit that the best
advice to young lovers is now: “All You Need is Free Wifi”?
In French there is an old saying that translates to: live on love alone. Although the older generation may be wise, they can also be naive, immature and disconnected. With no internet they are lost, they know nothing about the metaverse and its promises of unprecedented accomplishments. And today, who can seriously believe that one can find love in an internet/5G desert?
We might as well accept the truth: nowadays a date is set in 3 parts, 3 reels if you are having a 3-course menu. All texts are AI-generated. Make sure to answer the comments you get as soon as possible, even if your meal gets cold in the meantime. Laugh loudly sometimes, not at the jokes of the charming person opposite you at the dinner, but rather to the viral memes that constantly feed your social media.
True love can wait, not your followers!
Since apps like Replika that allow us to have a relationship with a perfect-match avatar are booming, what is the point of still waiting to find love in real life? Being hyperconnected is good enough, isn’t it?
…unless the global energy crisis with its shortages forces us to become sober and to give up our virtual relationships for a while. And maybe it will also force us to put our bodies and souls back together in real life…
If we ever managed that, it would be inappropriate for us, even indecent, to not live this moment fully, to not listen to, to not look at, to not speak to, to not smile at one another. Why not give a chance to let the other surprise you, to keep the flame alive? So, what produces more heat, between two souls: a warm embrace or data centers?
Perhaps we were too romantic before the internet, we had time to waste on being interested in others. Now we have to keep connected 24/7, to follow all the time, everything that’s happening in the life of those we follow. It is no longer important to live our life, as long as the photos we post can make our followers think that we love and are loved.
So then, is love obsolete?
This unique love that cannot be expressed through reels, photos, even words, even when words can be generated and enhanced with AI. This love that only eyes can tell. Mute eyes that speak the truth. Only if we dive into them to read what they have to tell us.
Far be it from me to suggest that youngsters of today can’t love each other. Or that they don’t know how to love. Who does anyway? This is precisely why love is such a beautiful thing: never knowing how to “get it right”, being shy and clumsy. And while we are deeply distracted by virtual connections, let’s not forget all the time, the uncertainty and the daily attention that love requires in real life.
With love and without ChatGPT.