There are more and more boys and girls – and adults, too – downloading apps like Tinder, Happn, Once, Grindr, Kik, and Wapa, which are created specifically to "connect people."
The most famous of these messenger apps is Tinder. It already has about 50 million registered users worldwide—the average age being between 30 and 35 years old. So, it’s not even just teenagers on the apps, then – but adults, too!
These "places" are meant, among other things, to facilitate the creation of "new love.”
But is that really the case? And beyond that, why resort to technology to establish new relationships?
Covid has certainly heightened our sense of loneliness and has undoubtedly aided in the expansion of meeting new people virtually. We have to wonder if the pandemic alone is to blame for the growing popularity of these platforms.
At the Core of the Fragility of Relationships a Lack of Education about Friendship
Some time ago, I read a friend’s university thesis on the topic of friendship. He’s a young professor who currently teaches high school religion courses, and before becoming a teacher, he worked as an educator in a youth club. He has a passion for educating adolescents, and his mission is to help bring out the best in them.
In his thought-provoking paper, he argues that many young people’s struggle to maintain healthy, balanced, mature sentimental relationships stems from a previous lack of being able to establish true friendships with peers.
He argues – referring to the experiences of protagonists in the great literary classics (such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) or cinematic representation (such as The Chosen, by Dallas Jenkins) – that children first need to be educated about friendship. This lack of true, sincere, unrestricted friendship would also give rise to the problem of hyper-sexualization. (This refers to the incapacity to be close to someone without seeking sexual gratification, since they might not know how to simply enjoy being around the other person.)
How Can We Build Strong Relationships? By Discovering the Richness of the Human Heart and Opening up to Others
Young people will only be able to seriously approach friendship and the more intimate relationships that turn into love only by learning to be themselves, to not hide who they truly are, to share, and to rejoice and suffer with others. In fact, mutual love is, by nature, exclusive, but philia is still an essential component – as masterfully explained in Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas est.
The point we want to make now is: does technology, which is useful in so many ways, truly help us to discover ourselves profoundly? Should the Internet really be the place where we get to know each other on a deeper level?
Isn't it true that while we believe we are making "online friends" or even falling in love, we are actually settling for mere substitutes?
“Sentimental chat rooms” (a major phenomenon) are full of both teenagers and adults. Often, what pushes us into this sort of situation is a wounded affectivity – an underlying insecurity – the need to be looked at with love as it feels as though no one in real life is giving this to us.
Who... or rather "what" do we come across in chat rooms?
Rather than encountering real people, we often find archetypes, portrayed by a series of photos lacking depth… It’s just enough to constitute a relationship without too many implications. If, afterward, the relationship "comes out of the screen," it can shift very easily to bed. It skips the stage of getting to know each other through reflections, conversation, and comparing one another's personalities and values.
Sometimes it seems the “relationship” doesn't need to leave the messenger app. Many people decide to have completely virtual, exciting experiences without ever needing to look another person in the face.
There are exceptions, however, in which acquaintances begun online turn into very important relationships. My mind immediately goes to those fragile, shy, awkward children who joined those sites because – in their insecurity – they struggled to flourish in real life… but then, being able to grow into themselves online, they may find it easier to look the other in the eye and build real life plans. Let's not judge them without understanding their stories. In this article, we are simply trying to understand a trend, which is that of depersonalization.
Let's Start Over with the Kids. Let Them Know that…
"The soul is conveyed through ordinary dating… through the perfume I wear, the words I say, and the way I say them. Everything about me shows my soul; but, to get there, we have to return to the days of dating each other, so…,” writes the journalist Ida Giangrande, talking about Tinder, “let's try to use technology for its actual purpose. If we want to make friends, instead of downloading Tinder, let's join a gym. Let's not leave room for those who want to escape from their responsibilities by using our need for affection. Let's not let ourselves be ensnared in meaningless adventures. Let's seek, rather, the human meaning of love, perhaps then we will truly be free."