The most terrifying thing about dating today is the absence of emotion.
A new film got me thinking about this, as well as the future of dating, love, and marriage.
Starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult, Equals is set in a stylish, futuristic utopian society where violence and crime have been virtually eradicated by the genetic elimination of any human emotion. Despite this absence of emotion, Nia (Stewart) and Silas (Hoult) develop a forbidden attraction to one another and are forced to choose between the safety of the lives they have always known or risk it all for love.
Sadly, it’s impossible not to notice how this film mirrors how dating works in our society today. With all the dating apps available, many people are no longer basing their first feelings for someone on emotions.
Instead, they try to avoid “catching the feels” at all costs.
It seems many millennials have said goodbye to deep, emotional Notebook and Titanic-like bonds and become apathetic – and they’re totally OK with that.
They’re so OK with it, in fact, that one in four millennials surveyed would even date a robot.
We now pick our matches based on pictures and lists of characteristics gathered via short biographies. If we don’t like the way our date cuts their food, laughs, or pronounces our name, then we’re out – there are many more options to choose from. It takes just a few swipes.
We treat romantic options like menu items as we flip through potential matches”until we find a few that fulfill our checklist of requirements. We seek lifestyle over love and characteristics over connections. For many millennials – especially those under 30 – there is nothing organic or romantic about it. Gone are the days of dating and falling in love the old-fashioned way.
And if you do take the traditional route, it’s a rarity – one of those stories that your friends tell their friends about at dinner parties when they’re forced to leave their phones in the centre of the table and actually talk to one another.
Sure, online dating is undoubtedly convenient – and options aren’t necessarily a bad thing to have.
But the absence of emotions isn’t just rampant in the way we approach dating. Once you’re actually in a new relationship with someone, we replace emotions with emoji – ending text messages with hearts and blown kisses – and call it a deep relationship.
At least, this is the case most of the time.
Instead of embraced, it’s almost seen as a warning sign if the other starts to show signs of vulnerability in the dating stage, as one person usually backs away when the other start to express emotion. Indeed, “catching the feels” is often seen in a negative light, something to avoid because it will only lead to stress.
In fact, revealing your emotions to someone early on is often seen as ‘crazy’.
Some young people – including many of my friends – actively decided to keep emotions out of their dating lives until they realized they were ready for something serious and sustainable (i.e. marriage). While it makes sense to a degree, by that point many had forgotten what it was like to feel altogether. I watched it happen.
In recent years, I’ve found it both surprising and refreshing when I meet someone who is actually emotionally available – it’s such a rarity. When a man can cry in front of me, let down his walls, or make an active effort to go deeper than a typical “how was your day” conversation, that’s when meaningful, unforgettable human connections are formed.
The problem is, when we do get into a more serious relationship with someone, we are often no longer present when we’re with them thanks to the ever-addictive smartphone in our hands. There’s a reason “phubbing” has become both a buzzword and a very real cause of friction. In fact, it’s actually become the norm.
If emotions are left out of the equation, doesn’t that mean that love is too?
Falling in love becomes less of an option as the formation of emotional bonds begins to dwindle. Love requires vulnerability. Being vulnerable requires an emotional awareness. Emotional awareness and expressiveness is increasingly elusive.
Frankly, it’s sad.
Once unconditional love is absent from the equation, it’s easier to let the inevitable annoyances, habits and less-than-ideal traits of the other person remain the focus when you realize they weren’t quite what you “ordered.” Those things can eventually eat away at you, especially when romantic partners have become so easily replaceable (all it takes is one download).
While we can perfect things like our route to work thanks to improvements in GPS technology, we can’t rely on technology to do the real work when it comes to love and relationships.
In terms of Equals, a society void of emotion, of course, means you can’t get hurt. You wouldn’t feel heartbreak, jealousy, passionate rage or any of the other darker sides to a relationship. Sure, life would be a lot easier without emotions.
But it’s our primal need to feel love. And in a world as chaotic as ours, why would we push that away?