A recent documentary about virtual sex and how it can provide a positive evolution of our sex lives raised a few issues and answers surrounding our search for company. It created a spring board of issues surrounding the way we interact. To give a bit of background on my own research around this issue I'll mention a few details.
I'm a hopeless romantic.
I am a fan of love letters and chance meetings. Something that is slowly becoming less and less common within today's culture. To state a few obvious platforms, Facebook and Tinder have made their way past the days of MSN messenger and webcams when you were 16 and you would spend your evenings hopelessly looking for people to give you a pc4pc. The days of Myspace where we would get our kicks from the many comments on our photographs or 'myspace pics' as it was then named. It prolonged a loneliness within myself. It made me more vacant to notions of sex so much so it made me bloom later than anticipated.
I recall very vividly having a growing dissatisfaction with this form of communication but over time it became one of the easier, not only, options to meet people. I would talk to people for weeks on end over these platforms developing feelings for someone I had never even seen, just seen a picture. They become an idea for us and they fulfill our fantasy. I thought that people were ideas and it fogged my view of a relationship up until a few years back when I felt a real connection.
I remember speaking to a girl over MSN and she would ask me to go on webcam, so I did. They told me to take my t-shirt off and stand there in my boxer shorts.
I liked her so I thought why not.
She said "my boyfriend has a better body."
I then went onto reply with 'I'm not surprised'.
The same sensations enter platforms like Tinder as a medium to judge before you get a sense of character, something you can only get with face to face interactions.
I fell a little bit in 'love' with a girl from Germany and we had never met. Her eyes, hidden behind contemporary glasses. Her beautiful German accent reeled me in. She was nothing but an idea I had fixated over as if I was in a relationship with them. But we never met, and never eventually did. This was made possible by technology.
Technology now has come to a point where we do not stop looking at screens. Before people, like my Dad, would have to wear glasses because of work as the cause for their blurred vision by spending hours and hours working with computers to earn their living. But now our social lives derives around screens, touching, liking and swiping. But this is barely the issue.
As technology progresses there are more advancements as to how we meet people and simple dating sites do not cut it. We crave attention at every point in the day, whether that is a smile, a joke or a conversation. We fantasize about the sense of touch of someone who feels the same way. Not many people would deny that. This is the idea that drives this industry.
You only have to see Her, an incredible Spoke Jonze film discussing the notion of relationships over technology. The premise being that a computer system can manufacture feelings that humans beings cannot immediately offer through circumstance. It is the ideal product for loneliness. Like anything in life relationships take work. There are lull periods, darker spells and feelings of loneliness but there are also incredible moments of clarity when someone says they feel the same. For a moment your stomach is on fire, in a good way.
Porn is a very different idea, and I put my hands up and say that porn has no interest to me. It is a false sense of company, mainly used as inspiration for eventual masturbation. This has been something I rarely got into. The romantic in me didn't fully believe it.
This industry is possibly the largest within the internet boom and we now rely on it. If it were to go away, would we go back to magazines to get off full time?
No, we'd miss that instant option to talk with people that we've never met, have no intention of meeting. We prefer the fantasy over reality. Facing reality is one of the elements of life that we need to do if we are able to deal with life. Nothing that comes easy is worth having, at least in the initial stages.
Leading to current love affairs, the rise of Tinder has become a situation where you can see people in your local area, match, like you would catch the eye of someone in a bar or on the street, but it is done via a screen. The traditional method of how our parents met is truly dead and technology killed it. Can you imagine hearing how your parents met and they replied, "we swiped on Tinder and then we progressed to Skype and eventually met". These tools have completely reshaped the way we meet people or how we perceive relationships as we form connections.
The newest development in this is the Oculus device. Recently bought by Facebook, unsurprisingly, for two billion dollars. The intention to create a sense of fantasy perceived as reality. When used as a connection for loved ones over long distance the tool to recreate the notion of sex via technology has ramped up in the past year. Virtual reality has taken a step toward becoming real. In a recent Vice documentary, a developer of these products stated that he hoped that we would get the stage where people would eventually fall in love with virtual reality characters, to live out our biggest fantasies through these incredible spectacles we place before our eyes. Having tried this technology, looking at a space program (of course), it is incredibly well done, if not the most impressive thing I've experienced with a screen. But once you take the glasses off, it is still a screen and you have just been sat in your room the whole time. It makes the impossible possible but nothing has actually happened. When this technology is then placed within the romantic industry, and it saddens me to say it is now an industry, it dilutes the experience and eventually affects how we approach relationships. It offers a better solution to reality because it is so accessible.
It casts my mind back to Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. Besides from being a fantastic film it raises a few improbable answers to the future. The famous sex scene might be farfetched but isn't too far from what is being suggested as an alternative to touch. The notion of no touching making love through a virtual reality system. At the time this would have been a running joke running ahead of what technology could do. But now were at a point where we could do this and eventually will be able to. Developments in the Hague, Holland have led to a device that mirrors the experience of sex through plastic devices. Using the Oculus products, the sense of sight and sound with virtual women and men is then met with the physical aspect of intercourse all from your living space. This is seen as a good thing for many people within these development circles. But refers back to that baffling notion that we don't need touch anymore. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't sex about touch, smell, sight, and the general ore of the experience. Have a look at yourself when you are in the chair with the plastic apparatus upon your nether regions.
Is this the future?
I am confident when I say I certainly hope it isn't. Such ideas surpass ideas of Facebook, Myspace, Tinder and other social implications that help us find somebody. It makes it real but in a false way. It is something the porn industry has naturally taken under its wing and ran with.
Reverting back to the notion of how we met people before technology, before the internet made it possible to connect with anyone we wanted, touch has been taken out the equation, at least in the initial stages. We do not meet people like our parents did and in many ways that is a positive. We have more scope to find anyone we want, just through a screen and a database up in space. The internet they call it.
Love letters become a rarity, even cards are being challenged by emails containing a message and e messages. The physicality has been removed through technology in both our interactions and meetings with people.
To suggest that this will become a thing is ridiculous. We are smart enough as human beings to realise that this is not going to happen but we are going to fade our experiences with people as technology develops. Business meetings will commence with Skype or other various platforms. We do not even need to interact with anybody face to face if we do not want to. Businesses maximize efficiency by removing the personal element to ensure they can crunch more figures. These elements are subtle within our lives but it is all down to practicality. We cannot always be with people to interact and we don't even need to anymore. The notion that the same thing can be applied to sex, an act based solely on touch is a worrying thought and one that makes me uncomfortable in many ways. We can already see a growing amount of people in Japan reverting to virtual reality instead of real relationships, whether that is through the inability to find someone or the easy nature of purchasing a device to instantly give us what we need.
Real connections take time and through the experiences of falling for the idea of a person, you realise that its not reality. Our social profiles are advertising our busy and exciting lives, but in reality we are sat in a cafe behind phone and computer screens in order to make that advert happen. We miss the exchanging glance because we are searching the internet for somebody to love instead of being aware of the things around us. We are all guilty of this but technology has been the catalyst for this change.
Who knew that such technology would surpass the need to feel and touch and the idea that fantasy takes over our own realities says a lot about the way we are living our lives. This is a growing concern but used in the right way can be used as a positive. But the detrimental effect it has had on the way we interact with people has made us reliant on the technology to function, and this means if we lost it all we would have to redevelop as human beings, to a certain point. The simple notion that Google Maps or satellite navigation would take over physical maps has made it so that our children will not need to learn how to read a map. They won't even need to tell the time as their phones will tell them.
I can't read a map. Or maybe I can I just have no interest in it.
If my sat nav goes so does my sense of direction.
The same is to be said for technology. How it will effect our relationships remains to be seen, however it is how we treat technology which will allow us to evolve as human beings in the right way, not via a short cut. Technology can be a tool but it is not the resolution for living. It is merely there to guide our lives to a certain degree. We have gone so far and we are at a point where we can either choose the red or blue pill (to excuse the reference). Do we want real lives or easy access fantasies?
Count me in for the long haul of tougher times and real emotions over the false sense of security technology can provide us.
Because when it is right, at the right time, the sensation of love, sex, longing, rejection, relationships and the eventual family will always be down to human nature, not a computer program.