Is Romance Dead? Courtship in the Age of Texting and Social Media

Old vs. new dating

It’s a topic that’s plagued philosophers and poets for centuries, not to mention all of the Karens you’ve encountered who can’t fathom why you’re still single: Is romance dead?

Now, before we all freak out and start crying about becoming that crazy old person who never married and has 18 cats because they never found the “one,” let’s take a deep, cleansing breath. Are you ready? Breathe in and hold for five seconds; now exhale. Does that feel better? No? Ok, let’s take a different tact and take a look at this quandary in the context of the modern age of texting and social media (but keep breathing).

A Brief History of Romance (Or When People Actually Talked)

Once upon a time, yes, just like the start of a fairy tale, courting someone meant you had to do horrifyingly embarrassing things like pen over-the-top Sense and Sensibility love letters and send them via carrier pigeon, read poetry, and heaven forbid, actually talk face-to-face. There were no smartphone screens to hide behind, just the heft of your words and your desperate hope that your quivering lower lip was endearing rather than alarming and the object of your affection couldn’t smell your fear like dogs can.

romance old

In the olden days, it would have gone something like this: “I shall count the moments until our souls may intertwine again, my dearest love. I remain undyingly yours.”

romance new

Contrast it with the current state of “romance”: “Hey bb, u up?” or “Wyd?”

Do you see the difference? It’s quite a big one!

The Swipe Right Culture

Swipe left, swipe right—sounds like it could be a country line dance, but it’s actually the meat market…um, we mean, the “meet” market, which is the romantic landscape we negotiate today.

You can decide the fate of a potential love affair with the flick of a finger. In seconds, you go from “Who’s this?” to “heck yeah” or “nope.” Do you remember that scene in Gladiator when Commodus does the thumbs up/thumbs down, waffling with the crowd at the forum to see if Maximus lives or dies? It’s like that, but with deciding on potential romantic partners (only it’s not life or death that’s on the table).

swipe right old

Then: Long walks in the park discussing hopes, dreams, and the meaning of life.

swipe right new

Now: Scrolling through countless selfies and making snap judgments about someone’s life compatibility based on their profile pics and if they wrote a decent bio or “About me.”

The Art of Conversation: Is That an Eggplant Emoji, or Are You Just Happy to Text Me?

Human communication used to be more, uh, how can we put this delicately—eloquent. It used to be sonnets, whispered sweet nothings, and passionate declarations of love. Now? We talk in emojis. We use eggplant, peach, kissy or smiley faces, and fire emojis to convey our wants and desires.

conversation old

Ye Olden Days: “Your eyes are like the brightest twinkling stars in the sky above, your laugh the sweetest melody ever to grace thine ears.”

conversation new

21st Century: “😍😂🔥”

Shakespeare is rolling in his grave, in our opinion.

The DM Slide: A Tale as Old as Time (or 2010)

Gone are the days when you’d have to gather up the courage to approach someone in a social setting. Now, you can just slide into their DMs while hiding behind your carefully curated dating profile.

dm old

Old School: Offering to buy them a drink and then hopefully engaging in a casual chat that could lead to a connection.

dm new

New School: Sending a GIF of a dog wiggling its butt with a caption, “Slide in like…”

#RelationshipGoals or #TMI?

You thought we would leave social media out of this? WRONG. Couples are no longer happy with simply enjoying each other’s company; they have to shout their #RelationshipGoals to the world via their preferred platforms, complete with choreographed TikToks and gushing IG posts.

relationship goals old

Vintage: Sharing a milkshake with two straws (don’t do this; a new strain of Covid is here).

relationship goals new

Current: Posting a 10-minute vlog about the milkshake, detailing the flavor, consistency, the paper straw they’re sharing because it’s better for the environment, and basically creating a brand—you as a couple are the brand.

The Love Songs: From Mixtapes to Spotify Playlists

Remember spending hours taping songs off the radio to create the perfect mixtape for your crush? That took commitment and effort, not to mention praying the DJ wouldn’t talk over the song! And what about borderline copyright infringement?? We were kinda breaking the law, but it was for love.

love songs old

Retro: Carefully curated mixtape, complete with handwritten liner notes about the meaning of each song.

love songs new

Today: A hastily assembled Spotify playlist titled “4 U <3” featuring tracks from Drake and Beyoncé.

The First Date: Dinner vs. Netflix and…You Know

Going out on an actual date used to involve dressing up and making reservations. Your date might actually pick you up and open your car door for you—possibly the restaurant’s door as well!

first date old

The 20th Century: Candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant, followed by a moonlit walk.

first date new

The Here and Now: “Wanna Netflix and chill?” which may or may not involve watching anything at all or even chilling.

The ‘I Love You’ Milestone: Sonnets vs. Tweets

Declaring your love used to be a big occasion, perhaps even requiring its own Hallmark card to mark and remember the day.

love old

Yesteryears: A spill out your heart and guts handwritten letter (maybe even done in calligraphy!) or possibly a public declaration. “O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon.”

love new

Modern Era: A tweet that says, “OMG, guys, we made it official with our first ‘I love you’s!’ #LoveWins #Finally.”

The Breakup: Face-to-Face vs. Ghosting

Putting the pin in a romantic relationship used to call for an in-person conversation or at least a long phone call with crying and “I’m sorries.” We are sorry to report that those days are pretty much dead and buried.

breakup old

Classic: A face-to-face conversation with actual human emotions, hugs, and possibly even a breakup mixtape to try and soften the jilted party’s hard landing.

breakup new

Contemporary: Disappearing from all social media and never responding to messages again. Sorry, but you’ve been ghosted.

Takeaways: So, Is Romance Really Dead?

Let’s not be too hasty with the eulogies. Sure, romance might be on life support, or perhaps it’s just evolved into something we’re still struggling to understand, like Bitcoin or why people are still trying to make mullets a thing.

While the methods have undoubtedly changed, the core principles have not. We’re all still looking for connection, love, and someone who won’t judge us for whatever quirky habits we may have. So maybe the next time you get a text saying, “U up?” you can reply with a heartfelt, “Yes, thinking about the death of romance. Wyd?”

And who knows? Maybe that’ll be the beginning of something truly romantic, in an eggplant emoji kind of way.

Whether you’re missing the good ol’ days or admitting defeat and embracing modern love with sort of open arms, you’ve got to admit the way we search for romance has never been more entertaining.

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.