Dec 28, 2022, 05:55AM

Nesting and Courtship In a Cybernetic World

The pressure to move around constantly for rent, education and jobs also prevents formations of solid geographically-based subcultures.

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Incels are now a widely-known phenomenon, frequently appearing in media cycles. There’s also increased attention to the lowering birth rates. Very few of the articles on the subject focus on related issues such as high maternal mortality rates and decreasing work life balance. While incel culture is an extreme manifestation of these trends, it’s undeniable that people are having less children and less sex in general.

There’s a joke in the younger lesbian online culture of “useless lesbians.” A “useless lesbian” when said by someone of that demographic isn’t a statement of hate speech but is instead a state of frustration at lack of ability to navigate dating. Lex, a platform made for “not cis men” has attempted to recreate personal newspaper classified ads. Tinder’s known for a mutually “swiping” format that’s mostly image based. OkCupid does matching via survey questions. These platforms can create different atmospheres yet none have solved the culture of loneliness.

The death of “the third place” likely holds a large part of the puzzle. A third place is a social environment which isn’t school or work. Starbucks has made a brand of trying to cultivate a third place in their cafes. Yet most people don’t see Starbucks as a place to meet new people but rather to spend time with those they already know. Starbucks cafes are more divorced from communities compared to a local coffee shop which may have open mic nights. The pressure to move around constantly for rent, education and jobs also prevents formations of solid geographically-based subcultures. It’s difficult to know neighbors when one is always moving.

Lack of socialization also translates into a lack of healthy romantic success. Picking up cues is a skill that translates to all areas of life. Boundaries of space are also ever-shifting. What does it mean for someone to tell you their Instagram name? Is it socially acceptable to set a boundary where Facebook is only for work peers and Instagram for long-term personal friends? Is it acceptable to cultivate a social media profile only for dating? Does every person you flirt with need to see the same social media profile your mom sees? Is asking someone out for coffee respectful of their time or is it rushing things? In some ways we’ve become the confused American tourist wondering what it means when they’re kissed in France.

Courtship norms have varied throughout cultures. Our current one is unofficial and detached, leaving both parties to either wonder about proper personal space or just embrace looking needy. The group of commentators most eager to step up to the plate of analyzing this have been reactionary. Occasionally an essay will hit the media about women who say they want an arranged marriage. The complaints are usually reasonable yet the solution is to call for an institution which is often based in family coercion. I suppose articles asking for more modern professional matchmaking becoming normalized aren’t as popular. Articles are quick to blame a broadly defined “feminism” as opposed to looking at a variety of factors. On the flip side, many third-wave feminist outlets promote hook-up culture as dangerous but also amazing. Fourth- and second-wave feminists typically contest this yet often aren’t given the same platform.

With the lack of third places, one must play a strange game of revealing and concealing. Revealing too much to an unstable person may place oneself and those close to them in danger. Concealing too much may make the other person suspect the worst or else prolong major issues in a match. It may also create one-sided relationships where one party is emotionally detached and the other’s highly enmeshed. Even if one doesn’t accept the family unit as a foundation, a society where a significant number of adults are ensnared in dysfunctional relationships isn’t healthy. How does one signal to the world what life they’re trying to build in a way that will be socially validated? Do we revive the tradition of the “hope chest” where women store away items for marriage and children? Can feminism be used for envisioning the future as opposed to justifying dangerous behavior? Can people still have stability in relationships without joining a religion or fringe ideology?

When we’re all strangers to each other, even dating for the most wholesome family goals will feel like a 1970s glory hole encounter. Intimate yet unlikely to happen again. 


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