Pascal Lardellier published “Loving each other during masks and screens” with L’Aube editions.
Dating sites and apps have transformed romantic relationships in just twenty years. New ways to meet, flirt, remember and inlove have emerged. The traditional methods and temporality of the encounter are reversed. Or, conversely, from Tinder, we flash from an image, from a detail. What a slow process gives new meaning to love at first sight.
And then this distance and this removal of another’s body, the health crisis accelerates and magnifies it. Because these new ways of connecting are exacerbated by masks, barrier movements and detachment. These qualities and dispositions, Tinderian and covidian, short-sightedly diverse, come together to express the spirit of the season.
We love as a time allows us to love. And an era is a set of values and techniques or technologies. And then there are restrictions, too.
Liberalism in the coverage of romantic relationships
In fact, liberalism has established itself as the ideology that now governs sentimental relationships.
More broadly, it is a new state of mind that governs digital sentimental-sexual relationships. They commodify themselves, singles who practice selling love online. On sites and apps, everyone has become their own cyber marriage agent. Of course, bribery is a global strategy that involves visibility. But this time we will no longer be judged by one or a few people, but by possibly thousands.
Marivaux’s famous play The Game of Love and Chance (1730) can now be called The Game of Love and the Market. Because, in the era of victorious liberalism, one has the impression that feelings are reduced to “customer advantages”, “emotional capital”, added value and successful interviews.
Ultramodern loneliness: dating sites, an imperfect cure for the end of love assurances
Back to Michel Houellebecq who in 1994 had already seen the entry of sexuality into the era of liberal competition, with winners and losers in his vision Extension of the domain of struggle. He presents this book as frustrated, antipathetic and pathetic “antiheroes”, tortured by unsatisfied impulses. The handsome and the self-confident achieve instant sexual gratification. For the losers, they are left with images, fantasy and masturbation as consolations.
Online, relationships are liberalized, because all the basic principles of the market economy can be found there: the abundance of supply, the rationalization of the search for love, chosen target, the fact of being able to choose from the abundance supply, product standardization. Basically, you’re filling in almost anthropometric forms, titles that need to be respected.
This prompts a commodification, the personal records of registered persons being read as products that can be tested and modified if functionality is poor or defective. And online, singles are in a personal branding posture, becoming their own brand.
So you have to be effective and attractive to stand out. Romantic relationships are subject to a requirement of performance, efficiency and income. Personal files posted online need to be sold and impressive to be noticed, because they compete with thousands more. These adjectives come from teaching, which pollutes the space of intimacy.
In addition, sites and apps have favored the emergence of love coaching: love coaches manage singles as if they are being demoted by senior executives, who need to be motivated to get a good job again. Valuing one’s capital, expressing one’s qualities, exploiting one’s potential, these are the missions of this new type of relational coaches. However, these principles and these practices belong to the ideology of management, and are part of the liberals who now get into relationships, especially love.
In another register, speed dating symbolizes this trend: the first romantic contact is strangely similar to a job interview, seven minutes flat. In 2007, a beautiful film, The Factory of Feelings, recounted the sentimental wanderings of the character played by Elsa Zylberstein, into the universe of these “surrounding tables”. The last of these series is frankly worthy of deviation!
The statement that liberalism (which is primarily an economic doctrine) wins relationships is more than a metaphor. Taking some expressions in the literal sense is, moreover, reveals: Internet users who flirt online are rapidly aroused, about dating sites, “the great fair of hearts”, a “supermarket”, “business and business”, “sexual consumption” or a “showcase for singles”. Many say we choose companions like our choice of yoghurt, or any product, shopping cart on hand. In short, many have the impression that they can be commodities. This lament is a must in the collection of testimonies, especially women.
And then some (mostly men) even mention some form of prostitution, because you pay (restaurants, gifts, etc.) to get a relationship. These expressions refer to trade and the market, entering the realm of romantic encounter. However, these clichés are expressed by the followers of these sites themselves. But as it was before, dating always requires you to give yourself in the way, for me. François de Smet gives a very good book, dense and detailed, entitled Eros capital, dedicated to this symbolic economy which is above all very touching.
Novels, essays, blogs, sites or forums (mostly written or maintained by men) attest to this trend towards the industrialization of sailing. In 2005, Lewis Wingrove explained in Of Mice and a Man how the rationalization associated with computer tools allowed for the best performance of the seduction process.
But there is no question of demonizing liberalism in an abstract way. By liberating the woman, he also makes her more self -confident and therefore more likely to place greater trust in chosen partners and agreed -upon relationships. What attitude can be a bond between two spouses when “marital duty” is often violent? What is the trust between two beings that one has more rights than the other? Can we trust someone who thinks we can’t vote with recognition, and who sees this as a factor in not allowing close relationships? Women won their freedom by gaining financial and social freedom.
In sites and apps, a triple principle of economics
A triple economic principle governs romantic relationships on the Net, and ensures their success: saving time, saving money and saving emotion.
Time, because once registered, and in a few minutes, you have access to a large pool of singles, consisting of thousands of people who are interested in us almost, and who are likely to be interested in the new profile.
It also saves money, because contacting all these people can be more expensive (outings, invitations, etc.) in real life. However, making a first contact thanks to the same copy-pasted letter sent by a few dozen people is a common practice and a matter of Taylorism. It’s just a question of reasoning on a task and making technical what thirty years ago was part of a slow temporal and a personal initiative.
In the end, an emotional economy is offered by these sites, because the shame is zapped and the cost of it is eliminated due to the loss of another. We go “to the next one and then there you are”.
It is the system of dating sites and apps in general that drives this consumption logic. Make the most reasonable and relevant choice, generate traffic around your profile to become a flagship product, gather contacts … And, like Leboncoin or PAP sites (from “individual to individual “), pay extra to be one of the bill, at the head of the gondola. Dedicated here is the marriage of sexual and affective consumption, and marketing techniques. We’re still talking about core, but it’s always “target core”, a term from marketing.
The concept that symbolizes this commodification of online dating is AdopteUnMec. With a playful and unbridled feminist spirit, this site allows women to walk with a shopping cart through the shelves of a virtual supermarket, offering men’s-things. They have become “unforgettable regional products”, or the “promotions of the day”! Men have certain rights in this universe, they must comply. The commercial metaphor activates the entire site, the most powerful user “able to make his or her purchase”, thanks to a “shopping list” he or she previously designed based on ethics. This site requires a good dose of humor, and it is very successful with a young client, who has fully mastered the parodic relational codes of social networks.
Also read: Ultramodern loneliness: dating sites, an imperfect cure for the end of love assurances
Excerpt from Pascal Lardellier’s book, “Loving each other in the era of masks and screens”, published in Editions de L’Aube
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