Is Romance Dead In The Age Of Swiping And Situationships?

Experts and romantics weigh in on how apps and pop culture may have disoriented our expectations of love.

Published On Feb 10, 2023 | Updated On Mar 02, 2024

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Nearly a quarter of a century ago, the queen of romance Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail showed two hard-nosed business rivals fall in love over email. A precursor, perhaps, to the present day where swiping has scurried into our love lives. Naina Hiranandani, Co-founder, Sirf Coffee, a bespoke dating service, believes that the swipe culture does make searching for a partner more transactional, with considerably less effort being invested in ‘situationships’ and a mistaken belief that there is an endless supply of romantic partners in the over active dating puddle.

“The construct endorses a list check (picture, geographic radius, witty answers that could be a bot), rather than a person check (personality, value system, EQ, kindness),” says Hiranandani. But does that mean romance is dead? “Romance isn’t (thankfully) dead, but has evolved (for better or worse) with time, generational evolution and the advent of technology,” she adds.

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Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a still from the 1998 film, You've Got Mail.

Has endless binge-watching of romance movies and the very existence of Shah Rukh Khan sullied us for an unattainable romance altogether? Chandni Srivastava, an actor and choreographer, loves romantic movies, especially how protagonists peel every layer of their emotion for their lover to see. “I admire how they show that being vulnerable in front of someone is a part of having an intimate or any relationship for that matter.”

However, Reemma Dalal, Founder, Heart and Soul, a bespoke matchmaking service, sounds caution. She believes that films, to an extent, have distorted our view of love. “Movies lead us to believe love is just a super intense feeling. We see characters who are so overwhelmed by intense emotion around their crush that they can’t speak, move or think,” she says. The butterflies, sweaty palms, stammering and clumsiness are cinematic cues to know whether you’re in love or not. “When you have super intense, even debilitating feelings that are so strong, it doesn’t matter if someone is objectively bad for you.”

Hiranandani adds, “While movies make for great entertainment, it alters the perception around the realities of dating. There are stories, and there are stereotypes. The ‘big things’ – like your personal beliefs, financial disparities, emotional dissonance don’t seem to matter in movies, but we all know they play their part in real life.” It also means that not everyone may feel an instant spark with a potential spouse, however, she says, that doesn't mean a connection can't be built. “Enjoy the feel-good stories on celluloid, without bringing in distorted expectations into real-world relationships.”

It's important to build and invest in connections, instead of swiping on endlessly. Dalal says, “We depend on dating apps to hide our insecurities and validate ourselves with the number of people we ‘match’ with on Tinder and the number of likes we get on Facebook.” Plus, the focus is on the wrong end of the stick, focusing on the superficial rather than real substance. “We are taught that our appearance dictates our popularity on social media, so we work on perfecting our photos instead of working on ourselves. If we depend on an app to meet people, then doesn’t that make us more socially awkward?” Swiping can just be a tactic to delay adulting when it comes to commitment.

While it is easier to be ‘hyper-connected’, social media has made love more complicated says Hiranandani – even created a whole dictionary of modern relationship terms (ghosting, breadcrumbing, etc). “What hasn’t changed is the fact that we all (still) need love in our lives. However, the creation, nurture or blossoming of romance (still) requires time, commitment and energy,” she says. For this, we need to show up IRL, and not just behind the façade of a screen.

Aarti Kalro, an artist, crystal therapist and soul coach, says that people forget that a dating app is just the means to an end, and not the end itself. Build something real and solid, rather than frittering away hours chatting online. “A lot of people use apps as a filler. It's important to be clear about what you want and stick to it,” than endlessly droning about what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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So back to the real question, how can we bring more romance into our dating lives? “Physical attraction and pursuit of ‘the spark’ have almost become deciding factors for pursuing a relationship rather than the organic journey or discovering the qualities of a person,” says Hiranandani, who believes one should follow the golden rules of dating — choosing a medium that resonates with your personality and emotional disposition, setting dating goals (pro tip: be mindful of your time and energy), and staying patient and kind to yourself as well as others in this journey to find ‘the one’.

Sometimes, in search of romance, you just need to go out on a limb. Namrata Gohain, a designer and creative consultant, moved to Goa from Mumbai recently. In Goa, she finds that people are more open to new experiences and investing in life beyond work. While one is wont to feel that they have a larger dating pool in a city like Mumbai or New Delhi, the laidback vibe and variety of activities in a state like Goa has made dating more fun for her. “It is just more relaxing in Goa, where you just go out to meet someone and have a good time. In Mumbai, it almost felt like work towards finding a partner,” says Gohain.

Plus, it’s necessary to clear the confusion. Srivastava has quit playing the guessing game on dates. “In current times, when everyone wants to keep it casual or thinks they want to, it’s difficult to gauge what the other person is looking for. Communication is key,” she asserts and has drawn healthy boundaries.

While hunting for love in this lifetime, it’s hard to even consider there might be a deeper connection. Kalro, someone deeply involved in energy work, says that while previously we would meet people by serendipity (for instance, cutie at the party), now we have the option of taking active steps to connect than just leaving it to chance. But are there other forces at play? “I also believe in soulmates and that there is someone for everyone. We decide a lot of these things before we are born! Nothing is by chance, to be honest,” she says.

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But not everything is dependent on destiny (if you believe in it) in an age of action. Dalal believes that your love life should work for you and benefit you. Don’t forget, you’re in charge. “You don’t have to do something just because it seems like everyone else is doing it. In our digital age, we consider intimacy to be sexting or sending nudes, and we define chemistry as two people sending each other heart emojis. We scroll through profile after profile, judging attractiveness on bad quality photos and basing our interest on cheesy pick-up lines or on the type of pets people have,” she says, adding you need to make choices that work for you and lay down your own dating rules.  

Finally, give yourself and people a chance. Romance doesn’t happen overnight. Hiranandani ends by saying, “Most first dates can fail because of the ‘vibe check’ – yes, dating and relationships are meant to be a fun, interesting and stimulating experience.” It’s good to know that the grand showy gesture of romance is passe, and that sincerity, effort and commitment are in. Real romance is cooking dinner for someone. Or gifting a sweet hand-written note. Or trying a new class together. “Small gestures go a long way in keeping the romance alive. Let's be honest, who doesn't want to be swept off their feet?” But start by planting yours firmly in the ground. 

Images are for representational purposes only.


Photo: IMDb; Shutterstock

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