November 23, 2019
Romance in the Digital Age
A polaroid photo of XtaSeay and Burgundy Bug kissing set as the lockscreen of an iPhone XSource: You Up? | Penelope Peru Photography
Let’s face it: even if your heart flutters at the sight of an eggplant emoji, there’s no denying that texting has impacted the art of swooning.
What is Romance
An Eggplant After Our Own Hearts
Romance is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love” – biochemically, it’s a rush of hormones including: adrenaline, insulin, estrogen, testosterone, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, to name a few.
Holding hands, serving breakfast in bed, endless snuggles, smiling while maintaining eye contact, love poems, surprise baths, and impromptu getaways are examples of romantic gestures, says LifeHack.
Overall, romance is subjective. Every relationship (including courtships) will have their own “little things” that communicate “I love you” to one another. Maybe it’s handholding, or maybe it’s giving flowers, back scratches, massages, saying a particular phrase, listening to a special song. Perhaps it’s leaving endearing notes on the nightstand.
Romance: A Historical Approach
Romeo and Juliet Weren’t the Only Lovers
Adam and Eve, Adam and Steve, or Ada and Eve, relationships dating back to Cleopatra and Mark Antony (c. 41 to 30) and beyond have been remembered as prominent examples of romance.
Romantic gestures have varied throughout history, from Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioning the Taj Mahal as a tomb for this third wife around 1632 to Richard Wagner secretly composing a symphony for his wife’s 33rd birthday, as seen in a HISTORY article.
In a more practical vein, love poems and letters have been another common romantic gesture throughout history.
“Never did a lady witness the budding of a flower with more requisite pleasure than I did the budding of that pretty little girl into womanhood.Written by Harvey Black in Brandy Station, Va. to his wife on Nov. 1, 1863. Cited from “The Civil War Wedding” by Charles A. Mills.
… I don’t know how much pleasure it afford you to go over these days of the past, but to me they will ever be remembered as days of felicity. And how happy the thought that years increase the affection & esteem we have for each other to love & be loved. May it ever be so, and may I ever be a husband worthy of your warmest affections.
… But maybe you will say it looks ridiculous to see a man getting gray haired to be writing love letters, so I will use the remnant of my paper otherwise…”
The first love poem was written on a clay tablet in Iraq sometime in 2031 B.C., according to Guinness World Records. It goes a little something like this:
“Bridegroom, dear to my heart,Oldest Love Poem | Guiness World Records
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.”
Over time, love poems became more flowery, complex, and metaphorical.
“See the mountains kiss high heavenAn excerpt from “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) | The Society of Classical Poets
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?”
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.An excerpt from “How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) | The Society of Classical Poets
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.“
Love letters share similarities to poems, a more direct, long-form approach to confessing one’s love.
“…Should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it containd nothing New; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever mantaind over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied. I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an undiscribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightned and improved by time—nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untittled man to whom I gave my Heart.”A letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams on Dec. 23, 1782 | Massachusetts Historical Society
“Even when I am in bed my thoughts rush to you, my immortal beloved, now and then joyfully, then again sadly, waiting to know whether Fate will hear our prayer — To face life I must liv altogether with you or never see you… Oh God, why must one be separated from her who is so dear.”A letter from Ludwig van Beethoven to his “Immortal Beloved” on July 7, 1812″ | Brain Pickings
“I look down at the tracks and see you coming – and out of every haze + mist your darling rumpled trousers are hurrying to me – Without you, dearest I couldn’t see or hear or feel or think – or live – I love you so and I’m never in all our lives going to let us be apart another night. It’s like begging for mercy of a storm or killy Beauty or growing old, without you. I want to kiss you so – and in the back where your dear hair starts and your chest – I love you so – and I can’t tell you how much – To think that I will die without your knowing – Goofo, you’ve got to try to feel how much I do – how inanimate I am when you’re gone…”An excerpt from Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Sept. 1920) | Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Letters brimming with metaphors, personification, imagery, and punctuated with a dash of exaggeration were the language of these lovers for centuries.
The Love Language of Instant Messaging
Is thee DTLW – Down to Lie With?
By contrast, ink-stained fingertips and multi-paged, love laced letters are an art that is seemingly fleeting in the digital age.
Texting has enabled instant, widespread communication and has been rapidly adopted in American culture. According to Pew Research Center, 96 percent of Americans own a cell phone and 81 percent of them own smartphones. For perspective, only 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone in 2011.
The average SMS message is 92 characters and about 15 words long, reports a 2016 Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication study. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for the grandiloquent language of the hopeless romantics preceding us.
How Texting Has Impacted Romantic Relationships
In a 2014 Computers in Human Behavior study, texting had a positive relation to both dimensions of attachment (anxiety and avoidance) with a negative impact on relationship satisfaction.
A 2017 Computers in Human Behavior study measured the conflicts that erupt between couples as well as the lack of intimacy that stems from texting and found it reduced how couples perceived the quality of their relationships.
Yet, adults still use text as an… intimate medium.
The Art of Sexting
In a 2017 Computers in Human Behavior study of non-sexters, word-only, frequent, and hyper-sexters, sexters scored higher in sexual satisfaction with no difference in overall relationship satisfaction.
Participants consisted of 71.5 percent non-sexters, 14.5 percent word-only, 8.5 percent frequent sexters, and 5.5 percent hyper-sexters.
Wait, what even is a sext?
While the definition of sexting seems obvious, there are different types of sexts – some are word-based, some are image-based, and both can be cryptic. Some couples are direct, others are more fantastical.
Understandably, sexting can vary greatly between lovers, ranging from a simple “DTF?” or “???” to roleplay to sexually explicit images (i.e. dick pics).
Hey, different strokes for different folks. We’re not judging here at The Burgundy Zine, so long as it’s consensual and responsible.
In other words, don’t let your unsolicited dick pics get leaked – we don’t want to see them, either.
Although lust and love are the underlying driving force behind love letters from days long since forgotten and the sexually explicit text messages of today, this shift towards instant, short-form communication has negatively impacted relationship quality and, arguably, romance as a whole.
Don’t let love die with our generation. Next time you’re about to send a compromising picture, consider sending a bouquet of roses accompanied by a loving, handwritten note instead.
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