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Love in the time of digital


It is often quite common, the few days following Valentine’s Day, to see many men swagger and many a woman still glowing and giggly, eyes slightly glazed over, face slightly dazed, they stare into the middle distance, doubtless reliving the most romantic moments of their date night or dreaming of a white wedding and their happy ever after. I too sit here dazed wondering about this brave new world where love has stopped being a feeling shared between the couple, not on social media feeds.

We live in an age where discretion with a pinch of mystery is no longer common currency. In fact so much so that there is a new generation who will be in our boardroom and parliaments maybe just a decade from now who are conditioned to believe, ‘if it isn’t on Insta, it hasn’t happened.” Hence, every marriage proposal is broadcast live, every engagement ring is snapped from a variety of angles, dinner date with ‘le beau’ – sometimes the said beau strategically cropped out of the picture for reasons unbeknownst to those of us in stable, steady, legitimate relationships – and breakfast in bed for all the world to see thoroughly documented on Instagram stories.

And of course, if you do manage to make your courtship in the age of digital last the distance to the aisle, you have got to have a hashtag for the wedding? Because if you did not have a hashtag, did you even get married? It seems to me as if these days, wedding hashtag is just one of the many things the couple need to settle on among a myriad of others such as venue, catering, invites, flowers and the gift list. “ADBA2017 just doesn’t sound right,” one can almost imagine Banky W and Adesua saying, “How about BAAD2017 instead?”

#BAAD2017 is just one of many more we see filling up your social media feeds every weekend. Couples, famous or not, feel the need to digitally enhance the wedding experience for family, friends and foes scrolling endlessly on Instagram for pictures, videos and stories. You may not even be within a ten mile radius of the wedding, and within the first hour of the ceremony, you know the exact cut of the wedding gown, the colour scheme, not just the number of the bridesmaids, but their names and where they live too. You may not be there but you’ve already seen the cake, and the first dance, if you’re lucky you may even have caught the best man’s speech on a guest’s social media.

The saddest part of all this digitalisation is that In the age of the digital hashtags sometimes outlive the marriage. Look for some wedding hashtags on social media now; the images still remain long after the ink has dried on the divorce papers.

This is light years away from our analogue world – or simply before it became trendy to plaster every detail of your life, including matters of the heart on social media. We used to have wedding albums, or simply a folder of images on our computer we were free to put somewhere out of sight the moment the relationship came crashing down. Not a vestige to be seen thereafter.

Then again, this is just a reflection of a time where relationships were not broadcast to the world, Valentine’s Day was not seen as an opportunity to blast social media with declarations of love the size of a PhD dissertation, love was that something special shared with that special someone. The world need not know about the first date, the morning after or the proposal.

Researchers from Northwestern University surveyed more than 100 couples, and found that people posted more on social media about their partner when they were feeling insecure in their relationship. Another research, from Albright College, found that people who had what’s called ‘relationship contingent self-esteem’ (an unhealthy form of self-esteem that depends on how well your relationship is going) post mushy and smug updates on social media.

Come to think of it, whether you are in the early days of courtship, high on endorphins and pheromones, or you have been together for years, the chances are, if you are in a happy, fulfilled relationship, you are more likely to be present for it, not eyes and fingers glued to a phone updating the world about it. So there you have it. It is time to log off and go for a romantic meal with your other half and for goodness sake, keep that phone off.

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