Has SMS and the Internet Ruined Love?


David Brooks says yes:

It also seems to encourage an atmosphere of general disenchantment. Across the centuries the moral systems from medieval chivalry to Bruce Springsteen love anthems have worked the same basic way. They take immediate selfish interests and enmesh them within transcendent, spiritual meanings. Love becomes a holy cause, an act of self-sacrifice and selfless commitment.

But texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination. A coat of ironic detachment is required for anyone who hopes to withstand the brutal feedback of the marketplace. In today’s world, the choice of a Prius can be a more sanctified act that the choice of an erotic partner.

The internet predates my dating experience, but I was packing up some books at my dad’s house last weekend and came across my copy of Brett Easton Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction. Here’s his depiction of the the “sanctified . . . choice of an erotic partner” in 1985, when Brooks was 24 and there was no SMS or World Wide Web:

Dire Straits or maybe it was Talking Heads were playing downstairs and she was blind drunk and even though she knew this was like sheer madness she couldn’t stop it or do anything else. She passed out and when she came to, she tried to take off her bra but was still too drunk and he had already started fucking her but he didn’t know she was a virgin and it hurt (not that badly, only a little bit of sharp pain, but not as bad as she had been taught to expect, but not exactly pleasant either) and that’s when she heard another voice in the room, moaning, and she remembers the weight on the bed shifting and realizing that this person on top of her was not the N.Y.U. film student guy but someone else. It was pitch dark in the room and she could feel two pairs of knees on either side of her and she didn’t even want to know what was going on above her. All she knew, all that seemed certain, was that she felt nauseous and her head kept banging against the wall.

Now, clearly, there was more to social life in 1985 than this. But still, there it was. Or consider Mad Men‘s depiction of dating and marriage—very different from a contemporary situation. But better?