Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Courtship in the 24/7 Era

My friend, Kim, has a saying on her Facebook, "A woman's heart should be so lost in God, that a man has to seek Him in order to find her." But this generation seems to be lost to Facebook and their cellphone making it way too easy not only to find her but everything about her too. The combination has made any rules of engagement (pun intended) obsolete.

David Brooks examines how cell phones have changed the dating game.
Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

Over the past few decades, these social scripts became obsolete. They didn’t fit the post-feminist era. So the search was on for more enlightened courtship rules. You would expect a dynamic society to come up with appropriate scripts. But technology has made this extremely difficult. 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.
As a parent, we've encouraged our young adults to establish appropriate guardrails which will help them navigate the temptations that are ever before their eyes. But it isn't easy for them or us. We understand the traps that lay before them that could derail their hopes and dreams, but frequently our young people only see another "friend" to add to their growing list.

In the "Happy Day's era as Brooks identifies it, a young man thought longer before he reached for a phone and called a girl. More importantly, the ring of the phone and one-side of the conversation were heard throughout the household. Now, the instantaneous access to a new friend through cell phones makes it easy, very private, and speeds up the courtship process. Add in social networking sites like Facebook and young adults quickly learn what their new friend's favorite food, music, song, and a whole lot more before the first date. They become emotionally bonded and "in a relationship" before parents and others in their social sphere know they even exist.

Even parents like us, who have encouraged our children not to commit to a long-term relationship until they are ready for marriage are struggling how to navigate these waters. The only "script" seems to be written by the next generation as they go along, eliminating many safeguards that prevented heart break or at least softened the blow.

God said it was not good for man to be alone, so He created woman and said it was very good. We created technology that has become our constant companion and what is happening to our generation because of it isn't so good.

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