21st Century Love….

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Blog challenge: write about 21st century love.

First thing I thought of: Catfish: the TV show

The stories of love and lust, individuals brought together over the “internet.”

The internet; a fascinating idea. “The internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve several billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies…The origins of the internet reach back to research commissioned by the United Stated Government to build a robust, fault tolerant communication via computer networks…The internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets up its own policies. (Thank you Wiki, for this and many other answers to questions)

Ok, the internet is this invisible thing that communicates through invisible unconnected things that ultimately end up in visible concrete plastic coated wires and connections and eventually broadcast right in front of your eyes on another piece of plastic. (What the hell is plastic anyways??…another chapter in and of itself.) Your computer is plugged into the wall. Your computer is plugged into the wall and is connected to the “internet” by communicating with another thing that is plugged into the wall and into another plastic box that is connected to another wire coming out of the wall. That wire coming out of the wall is a cable that gives you the invisible stuff that comes out visible on your TV. So, these two boxes communicate independently and unconnectedly to each other, invisibly. The only way that we know they are working is a few flashing green lights and making sure that we pay the utility bills. Sometimes the computer isn’t plugged into the wall, it is charged, another invisible marvel. Plug in the wire on one side to the wall, and the other to your computer and viola, in an hour you can walk 5 miles away from the wall socket and have the universe at your fingertips.

This concept of invisibility, things being invisible, not detected by your senses being central to our existence is not uncommon. You can’t touch or feel the internet, you can’t see electricity until it powers on a light bulb, you can’t taste radio waves, even though they are flying right past your lips right now. All you need is another plastic box with a turn dial marked with numbers and you can hear what your ear registers as music. You know its music because that is what it was called by your mom or dad. You dance and move to it, because it resonates with the cellular energy in your body, naturally, like your heartbeat.

Is love the same way? I certainly can’t see it. I can see something that I love, but love is invisible. I have never tasted love; my fingers can’t reach out and touch it. Love doesn’t have a smell. I can smell things that I love like my lovers skin, yet I can’t smell what we call love. We know that it exists because of our identification to the feelings and definitions that were given by our mothers and fathers. I guess we learned that love has a certain set of experiences that identifies it. I will say that from my personal experiences, I have identified love mistakenly several times, more that I can count.  What I was “feeling” seemed to fit at least one part of what I thought was included in love.

There are of course different types of love. I love my puppies but not the same way that I love my sister, and certainly not the way that I love my partner. I said earlier that you can’t really feel “love” but I guess that you can if you can recognize (either correctly or incorrectly according to yours and the global definition of love) feelings that might fit into that category.

The way that I have felt love is in a very visceral. I feel it deep inside my abdomen. It feels like a rubber band is wrapped around the object of my love and me, a sense of oneness. An example is when I am hugging my son, it feels like if someone was to try to pull him away, I would move with him, maybe a bit like a magnet, hard to separate, easy to connect.

When I am kissing my lover softly, softly enough that I can feel lips on mine, I can’t tell where his stop and mine begin. In that vein, I can’t say that I have ever loved something that I have never touched.

Back to the subject at hand, 21st century love. The internet has become one of the ways that we search this wild crazy world for love. There are multiple websites set up to connect people, one’s that cater to Christians, Muslims and Jews. One’s that cater to our aged population, Beautiful Big Women, men wanting an Eastern European bride and even people wanting to advertise that they are married but want a little extra somethin somethin on the side. They have names like Jdate (Jewish dating), Plenty of Fish (in the sea), OK Cupid, Zoosk (no clue on this one), Match.com, eHarmony, and for a variety of encounters (sensual massage, casual encounters, Men 4 men etc…) on Craigslist. You can find a swing set for your kids, an engineering job, dirty sex, “LOVE”, free concrete and a class on how to do hair extensions and weaves all in one place. Just the way we like things these days. We like Costco, Wal-Mart, strip malls and craigslist; we get all we want, in one place. Less work, less time, and less hassle. This ends up being the perfect transition into internet dating.

The websites are all the same. Thousands upon thousands of profiles paired with pictures, endless choices, all at the click or no click of the mouse. We scroll through the pictures and profiles and decide who we want to “wink” at or send a message to. It’s like going on a hundred blind dates in 10 minutes. Similar to speed dating but even better, no leaving the house, no having to put the ice cream back in the freezer or having to get out of your depression outfit (very large sweats and sweatshirt that you can lose yourself in.) You look at the picture first and then if you’re intrigued, actually read the profile information (unless you have a penis, in that case the picture is probably enough…)

Here is the problem that inspired the TV series Catfish. Pictures are worth a thousand search engines. With the ease of the internet, you can be anyone that you want to be. You can be blond, brunette or red head. You can have a sun kissed tan, or skin white as the driven snow. Adobe Photoshop as well as old pictures can give you the confidence that you lack to put yourself out there in the game. It is all good, the “wink”, the instant message, chat or email will go off without a hitch. Actually, so will the eventual phone call, it’s the flesh to flesh meeting that daunts the ghost writer, especially the ones that use pictures of bathing suit models from catalogs. Individuals using this approach have a soft spot in my heart. They have a very innocent naive idea of humanity; an idea that once someone falls in love, looks won’t matter. They will disregard the past images and love the picture the person sees right there in front of their face. So as you could well imagine, or may have personally experienced, this fuels for quite an anxious first date. We advertise to catch the fish. We use our best bait, best hook, and hope for the biggest fish.

*Side note: however cheesy, Plenty of Fish did a great job on their name. It’s hopeful, metaphorical and relatable.

Every episode of Catfish that I have watched has the same premise, people falling in “love” over the internet that have not met. They communicate through email, text, internet messaging, and phone calls. What’s missing? In some cases phone calls and in all cases, web cam communication. Why? Because one of the two is not really who they say they are. The most phenomenal part of all of this is that the person who has contacted Catfish has believed all the excuses that the GHOST has given for lack of face to face interaction. Some of the excuses are so obscene that I can’t imagine that in any other context they would be believed. Some of the best were:

“I am a recording artist and I travel a lot so I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have a cell phone.” (Honestly, this is the one that I just can’t buy into; my 8 year old nephew has an iPhone)

“My webcam is broken.” (Really, for 2 years?)”

These are things that like I said before just aren’t realistic. If you have time to wait for a flight, go on vacation, or even have a quarter, you can call. Many of these catfish are actually the opposite sex than what they advertise online. You can imagine the surprise that the poor unassuming fool in love is in for.

To make a very long story short, about 80-85 percent of the people united on catfish actually stay “together.” Most stay “friends” or go their separate ways. One that I just saw a few days ago was mind blowing, sweet, but mind blowing. A woman was on a bad downward spiral and online met “Steve.” Steve was a very (very very very )handsome man, dark skin, green eyes, a recording artist and music producer that was always on the road. They had been talking for 2.5 years and had never met due to his overcrowded schedule and convenient travel itineraries. They spoke on the phone often, had phone sex, texted constantly, but never met face to face. The woman eventually proposed to Steve and he said “OK.” They were to be married. Finally the woman, desperate to meet her love and future husband contacted the show to arrange a meeting. And so it went that with the help of the crew that they were, finally, to meet.

Another long story short, it was the best friend of the woman who had invented Steve to save her best friend from the toils and tribulations of being a potential “single mother, alcoholic loser.” All the things that the best friend thought she would turn into if she continued drinking and having reckless sex. Instead of that demise, she set her friend up for the biggest heart break of her life. The best friend had gotten another identical cell phone to her own personal phone so that she could text as “Steve” when they were hanging out, had her cousin be the voice of Steve (for all the hot phone sex that they had), used pictures from a hot male models MySpace page, and believe it or not it ended up that all that hard work paid off. The woman did indeed change her ways, she enrolled in school, stopped drinking and of course, she was engaged so no more reckless sex. The woman told the show that she was able to change because of the love and support that she had received from Steve. The acceptance and concern that he had for her made her believe that she was worth more than ugly dates with Jack, Jim and Jose. She also, unexpectedly appreciated her friend’s efforts and after multiple heart wrenching screams alone in the car, forgave her friend. She had changed, no matter what the reason or who the reason was, she had made permanent positive changes. Her heart was heavy as she deconstructed Steve, and of course in the two months following the show work on getting back to the closeness that her and her friend once shared. In interviews, they were both confident that they would remain friends. That seems like love to me.

But what kind of love? Friend love? I watched half expecting to see the two friends become lesbian life partners (but then that would be way to cool of an ending…) they didn’t, but there must have been some rubbery band connections. A closeness that even that kind of deception couldn’t snap, a deeper connection that convinced the best friend that even if she was eternally hated by her friend, it was worth it. She would self-sacrifice her happiness in that friendship for her friend to live her life in her best sense of self. Now that is love (at least the way know it.) There doesn’t need to be genital contact to feel a soul connection to another human being and actually it seems that the soul connection between friends might even run deeper than the vagina (or maybe it’s all about the vagina?) I hesitate to make a reference to Sex and the City (just cause it’s so cliché and it’s just a TV show…but there is not one episode that doesn’t portray some facet of being a woman, both desirable and undesirable) but in the series we hear some pearls of wisdom that just can’t be ignored. One of which was: “Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just people to have fun with.” This best friend seemed to understand the depth of the connection between women. We are the sacred feminine, the creators of the universe, and if one of us goes down, we all go down. The connection between women needs no definition or explanation. It’s just known and felt. It has existed since the creation of our universes and will be the energy that takes us into eternity. This digression, although a bit long winded, is a necessary part of the equation. With that I continue…

So, why all this background to answer a seemingly basic question? Well, what is love really if you can love something that doesn’t really exist? After all the lies came out about Steve, the woman found out that she lost something that she never had, that never existed, that was merely a figment of 2 of her friends imaginations. I ponder the notion that love might be just an idea. Maybe it’s something that we project. Maybe it’s actually just the projection of us loving ourselves that we feel. I mean seriously, it’s something that we can only feel within ourselves, something that we “can’t really explain” or “I just can’t put in into words.” Of course we can’t. It’s not like we are describing what kind of pain we are feeling to a doctor. “Is it a burning pain? A stabbing pain? An aching pain?” Love is what we experience, and our experience is based on our experience. Does that make sense? I am not going to feel something the exact same way that you feel it, and I may not ever feel it if I haven’t ever felt it. I might not ever experience love the way that you describe it. I might have been taught in different descriptive words, or it might have been something else dressed up as love, or maybe we have seen that love is dangerous, violent and not something that we would ever want. To that end, the Webster’s dictionary’s definition of love might not fit ones experiences or plain and simple some just don’t understand “the” definition. It’s just not in some people’s vocabulary, whether we would call it love or not.

There is a lot of gamble in online dating, there also seems to be a lot of insecure security. An escape into the life that you may have always wanted, or wanted to experience but never had the chance or the balls. It appeals to most on a basic human need, the need to be connected, seen, heard and desired. For those who don’t have those basic needs met, what’s to lose? Why not get it anyway that you can? Like the young child that has pined for the love and attention of mom or dad and has not succeeded in getting picked up and nuzzled, she will knock over the flower vase, run out the front door or bite her baby brother, just to catch the eye of a parent and if lucky picked up and put in her room or in the corner for a time out. Whatever the means to the end, she has made contact…

It comes down to the same thing every time, with everything, and everyone…It’s all RELATIVE. Hopefully in the case of catfish, not your relative…