David Brooks: Mobile Phones Are Destroying Courtship
from the why,-I-do-declare... dept
Once upon a time -- in what we might think of as the "Happy Days" era -- courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts -- dating, going steady, delaying sex -- was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.I have to admit, in reading this, even as he's condemning it, it sort of feels like Brooks is... envious? Does he feel like he missed out on his opportunity to have been a young player?
Over the past few decades, these social scripts became obsolete. They didn't fit the post-feminist era. So the search was on for more enlightened courtship rules. You would expect a dynamic society to come up with appropriate scripts. But technology has made this extremely difficult. Etiquette is all about obstacles and restraint. But technology, especially cellphone and texting technology, dissolves obstacles. Suitors now contact each other in an instantaneous, frictionless sphere separated from larger social institutions and commitments.
People are thus thrown back on themselves. They are free agents in a competitive arena marked by ambiguous relationships. Social life comes to resemble economics, with people enmeshed in blizzards of supply and demand signals amidst a universe of potential partners.
The opportunity to contact many people at once seems to encourage compartmentalization, as people try to establish different kinds of romantic attachments with different people at the same time.
But, seriously, he presents no evidence other than the "sex diaries" quotes to support this. He seems to assume that, thanks to technology, suddenly everyone out there is a player with multiple partners, all lined up via mobile phone to figure out who makes the best pairing for the night. I know plenty of single people these days, and I don't know anyone who does anything remotely like this. I'm sure there are some, but is it really that different from people who went out to bars and compared their different options in the past? This has nothing to do with mobile phone technology at all.