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Romantic Love in the Digital Age

Last kill for Julia by Francisco Hayez


Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, written in 1594,  encapsulates romantic love at its most appealing. Juliet speaks these words as Romeo departs from her balcony, her longing and complete surrender a match for Romeo’s intense commitment. Unfortunately, the young lovers’ families disagree, and the short-lived youthful romance ends in disaster. 

Couple in hammock

Romantic love may not be practical, but it’s real. Oxytocin, dopamine and other intense hormones create intense attraction. Romantic love, according to Dr. Helen Fisher, is “one of the most addictive substances on earth.” No wonder so many people want a romantic partner. But over the long term, what sort of partner is most beneficial?

Valentine Post Card

With Valentine’s Day coming up on Friday, I thought it might be interesting to look at feedback about forming relationships in the digital age. Bottom line: it’s not easy.

The ideal may still be meeting someone in person who sweeps you off your feet, but that takes too long. On-line dating apps have become a $2.7 billion-a-year industry that brings people together while sowing seeds of separation.

Eric Klinenberg, co-author of Modern Romance, argues that our smart phones constantly tell us there’s someone or something more important than the person we’re with. “And this matters because romance and love don’t come from superficial connections. At the end of the day, romance is impossible without sustained face-to-face contact.” People glance through on-line dating profiles in seconds. If a profile doesn’t inspire immediate interest, there’s another one a swipe away. If you meet up with someone, and things don’t quite jell, there’s no reason to meet again.

Frog King

Moreover, even if an initial meeting leads to a relationship, it may not be ‘the one.’ As the saying goes, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.” A 2014 survey of 2,000 UK residents who found a life partner reported that before finding ‘the one,’ women dated five other people, and men, six. Surprisingly, at least to me, survey results reported men and women have two long-term relationships, and one live-in partner before meeting ‘the one.’ That’s a lot of time and effort. No wonder many singles think dating and relationships are a lot of work.

Despite what florists and greeting card companies may tell you, appropriate gifts for Valentine’s Day have changed. Mere flowers, candy, and cuddly stuffed animals, traditionally given by men to women, don’t cut it any more. Though pleasant and fun, gifts don’t necessarily convince a woman of her partner’s undying love. And don’t forget, both partners like receiving gifts and attention. Modern winning ideas, for Valentine’s Day and every day, come down to simple mutual consideration, sharing activities, and not taking your partner for granted. Romantic evenings also encourage relationships.


Last Kiss for Julia from Romeo by Francesco Hayez. 1823.

Couple in Hammock by ReubenInStt

Sample Post Card by Nice Post Card Co.

Frog Prince by Dh1970.

Mariella Frostrup. All you need is love.” The Guardian. Feb. 11, 2018.

Carolyn Gregoire. “8 Crazy things Love Does to Your Brain.” HuffPost. Feb 12, 2016.

Gabrielle Savoie. “Have Dating Apps Killed Romance.” MyDomaine. July 19, 2019

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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