Eva Bradley: Net puts love in a new space

By Eva Bradley

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Sexting is the new and normal way to connect romantically. Photo/Thinkstock
Sexting is the new and normal way to connect romantically. Photo/Thinkstock

Last night at a friend's birthday dinner, the conversation drifted to dating. Specifically the recent dating activities of those who were single and searching.

Having been out of that particular loop for several years, I was what one might politely call "behind the times" on the etiquette of courtship.

Although, if one were to be brutally honest, which lately I seem to be developing a reputation for, I would have to say I was flabbergastingly out of date.

For a start I had never heard of online dating app Tinder. Yes, I can hear the gasps of disbelief at this disclosure among readers under 30 or parents of teens. Likewise, I know there will be others out there as naive as me and wondering what Tinder is.

Basically, it is the proverbial meat market staged in cyber space, a place for people to shamelessly pimp themselves as they once did in loud, low-lit bars on the weekend, except without the booze and subsequent useful memory blanks often generated by too much of it.

On Tinder, there is no pretending the next day you didn't do it. It's all laid bare, quite literally in the case of many of the younger female members.

As a female and male friend showed me a quick selection of the single people within a 10km radius, I was overwhelmed at the casual, quick-fire way candidate profiles were flicked to the left or right depending entirely on physical appearances.

At first this might suggest I spend my time with an awfully shallow bunch of single friends. In fact, they are quite the opposite and much more interested in long-term relationships than seeking a flame that burns smoking hot then quickly dies (as the apps name implies).

Courting today is a dry husk of what it once was. The online world has seen to that, as proved by new research this month that basically concluded that among young people, 'sexting' is the new and normal way to connect romantically, and the prudes among us who think that's just not on need to get over ourselves.

When I was being courted as a teen, I have no doubt the intentions of the hormonally charged young men were exactly the same as they are today. But instead of just flicking a touch screen left or right upon seeing explicit pictures of me with my girls out, my suitors had to use their imaginations and play the long game.

One memorable literary lothario may have been secretly seducing me and seducing another girl in my class simultaneously, but at least he was doing it with excerpts from Shakespeare that took an hour or two to source and hand-write and three days to arrive via post.

When I did eventually find out about the other girl, I didn't just send a selfie of my cleavage with the accompanying words ain't gettin no more of this b-arch, I penned an artful 15-page riposte to his own love letters (complete with scathing excerpts from Oscar Wilde), which undoubtedly advanced my vocabulary (some of it questionable) and my handwriting skills.

Love and lust used to be hard won and, as a result, was held in higher regard. Today it can be secured in moments with the swipe of a finger and GPS technology.

We live in a world where being single is both terrifying and disappointing at the same time. It's a world I am grateful not to be inhabiting, and one I am nervous about becoming a parent to teenagers in.

Eva Bradley is a photographer and columnist. Tommy Kapai will return next Monday.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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