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Continues Brooks– ‘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.’
So where there may have once existed social norms and expectations in a big anonymous city like NY, one has become free to behave and act as they wish. The social implications, the threat of alienation or being looked down upon has gone. In fact, today we are collectively encouraged to (mis)behave in the fashion seen on TV shows like Gossip Girl (which act as a kind of bible of our youth and aspirant society).
What does this mean? Brooks offers a very compelling idea: ‘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.’
In some sense, we have become disassociated agents in a disassociated society looking for the most viable context that will allow us to maximize our yield. Love has been commodified and where once we may have fallen for that person who we knew was broke and not model beautiful, we are now reexamining our aspirations. We feel that we are owed what is possible and close at hand (if the current media is any guide). What does this mean? It means a confluence of disillusioned girls, burnt beauties, young single men, lonely in love (although the hottest of them will always find dedicated followers), and couples divorcing and reevaluating their relationships. In the oldest sense of the word, marriage has always been an arrangement of power sharing and merging of interests but now, so too has the dating game, and as much as we like to believe in love we fear it like a pair of last years shoes. Even if those shoes were the most comfortable thing we ever owned.
In the end, we are all left to fend for ourselves and appropriate what we may. Who can blame us in these very tenuous times? However, one does have to wonder about those days when we crave simple adulation, affection and human bonding irrespective of what the designer label on their coat says.New York Times Cellphones, Texts and Lovers