Love in an age of global Internet
Robert Hooker

What could be more natural than love? Love takes a hold of us and drives us to do things against our rational mind and self interest. Love is felt in the very body, in the heart, love must be biology, before language, reason, or history.

If love was only an emotion it would lack the status we hold it in. Love is more than a term we use to make sense of certain internal states we experience, love is a complex pattern of social activity that must be relentlessly drilled in to humans. Our communities establish patterns of love.

Children are placed under a regime of love from their first years in school. Saint Valentines day is one of the most established pieces of work assigned to children throughout the United States. Young children create or bring in cards which they then circulate to all the other students in the class. This is done year after year. Children are also read folktales about princes and princesses in which love is the central theme. Later children are made to read Romeo and Juliet. Children are exposed to an endless flow of propaganda on how to fall in love.

Even the cold hard truth of a reality full of broken hearts, loveless marriages and divorce can do little to undermine love as an established social practice. It seems that our lives are what is wrong, and the myths that failed to guide us can only grow stronger. It is my point that this is all about to change.

I remind the reader that before the Capitalist age love was a different kind of practice. Love involved the arrangement of marriages by families. Each marriage strengthened or weakened the status of the male headed family that made it, and love in agricultural society was a bond between the male heads of households.

We all have been taught that our concept of love sometimes worked against this. We know that Romeo and Juliet rebelled against their parents wishes to find love. But our view is clouded by our own revulusion at the idea of arranged marriages. You can read Romeo and Juliet as much as a warning against passion. Cupid was not the cute fat boy we know today to the Romans, but the sun of War and Passion, a violent monster who could disrupt social order. Children were married before they were mature enough to form strong sexual feelings for others. Young girls were often kept in seclusion until they were traded off by the family. If any did feel romantic love as we know it at that time it would likely have been either for one’s wife, for a woman one had power over, or a dangerous thing indeed.

With the emergence of the state our concept of “blind” “irrational” love is elevated to a moral requirement for marriage. Marrying someone you did not love became almost a sin and TV melodrama shows us again and again the evils of marrying for anything but love.

This is the birth of our Saint Valentine’s day rituals acted out by school children each year. The state needed to replace extended clans with single individuals, replacing families with voters and workers. Establishing a random formation of families would weaken clans and thus extend the State’s advantage over other social orders.

Since the Reformation every time a new major State has emerged over traditional society it has always mandated marriage for love. Young people are suppose to select their partners based upon their feelings. This is so widespread that if people marry for any other reason they seem to try and make themselves “feel” romantic love. They tell themselves that it really was for love.

But with the rise of the Internet and Internet dating a new age of partnering and romance is emerging. In a very shot time a small number of social networking sites and online dating sites have taken “ownership” of the space of love. Today for more and more people meeting potential partners is mediated through a massive network of technology and Capitalism.

And thus love moves from the interest to the family to the State and now to Capitalism. And what will Capitalism online dating sites likely want?

Well online dating sites could probably perfect the science of happy marriages, matching people that it becomes more and more sure will live their lives happily together. Given the massive sample sets and the money available for research on line dating can finish off the promise of romantic love, providing everyone a tool to find their true love.

And this is how it is being sold.

But is this really likely? Firstly people are already using the sites because they are lonely now. Why invest billions in R&D when you already have revenue coming in. Our present society and notions of love are producing tens of millions of lonely adults. Why improve a product for which there is already a desperate market?

Also what benefit would it do an online dating site to get people married? Even though married people still screw around, they are less likely to need to use an online dating site. Once a couple gets married the online dating site is in danger of losing both their subscription fees, potentially for life.

Companies like periods of long continual revenue. A love that last a life time, or even 20 years, is a nice promise for online dating to make, but not much of a real business model.

So the present near random matching up with a series of short term relationships seems the best business model for the new business of online dating. But what about people’s need for a life long deep felt love?

Well that is simple: change it. Online dating firms and other social networks will have a strong economic interest in changing the nature of love. Love must be rationalized to the profit needs of online companies and the daily reality of today. The idea “new” love is a series of relationships. The kind of love presented in Sex and the City.

I predict that over the coming years there will be an effort by medial and psychological researchers to establish that our desire for a single love for a life-time is actually unhealthy, after all we can all see that it is not working very well. High divorce rates, loveless marriages, sexual frustration, sexual abuse; is this not all the results of a polygamous species trying to live with a single partner? Maybe but I suspect the cultural narrative more and more will argue this. Within a generation I suspect people will view our idea of love at first sight and love for life with as much disdain as we view arranged marriages.

Love will be something best found with the aid of complex social computing systems. Love will best last maybe a year or two at the most, roughly the renewal period for an online dating subscriptions.

People will probably still fall in irrational love and want to marry for life, just like today people still marry under pressure from their parents. But they will likely tell themselves its only for a few years, and even run the love search programs again and again until they get the result they want, like a child plucking petals from a flower wondering “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me...”