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This article is from Issue 50: Mar/Apr 2011

Distorting Love

How media is corrupting our view of romance, relationships and sexuality.

If you ever wonder what a culture values and how it's shaped, just look into the living room of an average home. Every culture in every era has been centered something that communicates value to and influences the community.

“A colonial house was centered around a fireplace to keep warm. The fear was being cold,” says Derek Melleby, the director for the College Transition Initiative at the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. “Living rooms today are centered around a TV. The fear is being disconnected.”

In other words, American culture values connection and intimacy above all else. Because this culture’s greatest fear is being alone— according to the media in which Americans are constantly immersed.

Can technology and media aid intimacy? In many ways, yes. However, they also have a polarizing effect on relationships. According to recent studies, the average American takes in about 3,500 to 5,000 marketing messages a day and spends about 41 hours per week using technology such as cell phones, TV, video games, music and the Internet.

Everyone is spending vast amounts of time engaged in mediated reality and less time engaged with each other. Experts are only at the very beginning of understanding how this fast-changing electronic culture will impact human love and relationships in the long term. Because of media and technology, the ways in which people fall in love, connect within relationship and experience sexuality are different than any other generation before this one. How does one navigate these uncharted waters and discern what real, healthy marriages and romantic relationships should look like?

The Love Delusion

The root of any romance today is love, but it wasn’t always so. In past cultures, people came together because their parents arranged it or they wanted to join lands or kingdoms; love was secondary. Today, love is the only thing that matters. This over-emphasis on love is encouraged by media that tells stories, sings songs and writes books about how true love conquers all, is ultimately fulfilling, brings a never-ending wealth of happiness and is rarely marred by significant conflict.

Sure, everyone knows real love doesn’t work this way, but that doesn’t mean those tantalizing (and insistent) images don’t affect people’s hopes for romance—and, in turn, cause disappointment in the mundane drone of the day to day.