Friday, 12 December 2014

Virtual romance? I prefer the physical form (repost)

This was originally written as a guest post for Romcon.com.


Technology is everywhere these days. We use it in just about everything we do and we’ve found digital alternatives to everything – the trusty vinyl record is gathering dust in the attic while everyone listens to MP3 files. VHS got thrown on the scrap heap by DVDs which in turn are mournfully shaking their fists at the MP4, and in literature the paperback has been joined by the ebook.


Technology and communications have made it possible to do just about everything from your sofa. We can buy our groceries online and get them delivered to our door. We can share our holiday photos with everyone we know, all at once through social networks. We write electronic letters to our family and friends and we don’t even have to be in the same country to have a face to face conversation with someone.


I work in digital media and as my staff get younger and more tech savvy the more I find a reluctance in people to want to communicate physically. Text messages, Snapchat, Email, Facebook, Twitter…all perfectly acceptable methods of communication. But pick up a phone and speak to someone? Well now that requires a good ten minutes of mental preparation to overcome the nerves of actually talking to a real person.

So where does that leave romance? Match.com claims that 1 in 5 newly committed couples met online, presumably through a dating site. But dating sites aren’t the only places to meet people online. If we’re more comfortable communicating through technology then it stands to reason that it is easier to meet new people and make new friends through social networks… does that also extend to romance?


The danger with online romance, however, is the Catfish scenario. Since watching the film and more recently the MTV series, I’ve realized that my novel, Inspired by Night, could appear to be largely influenced by the show. It wasn’t. I wrote it long before I saw the series, but it made me realize that there are a lot of people out there, falling in love with complete strangers online, and that my novel is actually pretty realistic.


I love technology. I’m a big fan of playing video games, taking things apart to see how they work, and trying to write bits of programming. I love that I can carry a whole library of books on holiday with me in one tiny hand-held gadget. But I also love the smell of books, the small rush of air breezing past your face as you flip the pages of a new book, acquainting yourself with its size and density.


I love listening to music on the bus to work, storing countless albums in my phone. But I still love the smell of vinyl, the large scale artwork on the cover, or the volume of additional images and text in a CD booklet.


And I still love going to concerts and seeing the musicians physically before me, performing their songs. The anticipation of perhaps meeting your music hero, posing for a photograph (to share with your friends and family on Facebook) and have the chance to speak to them… even though you can easily Tweet them or comment on one of their Facebook posts.


Those of us old enough to remember a time before Facebook, before ebooks and iphones, will always love the real things. The tangible item. It doesn’t make us old fashioned and it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the convenience of the new ways. It just means we were lucky to have experienced and enjoyed both.


And Romance? Well I’ll always prefer my romance in its physical form. No amount of cyber sex can compensate for the feelings of intimacy between two people. No amount of virtual flowers and hugs can feel better than being held in the arms of someone you love. And there’s absolutely no online substitute for a romantic candle-lit dinner for two.



Virtual romance? I prefer the physical form (repost)