CYBERSEXY - Are Our Dating Lives Almost Entirely Virtual?

Illustration by Beth Nicol

Looking back at my dating history, most people I have been involved with I've met online. I grew up in a technological turning point, growing alongside the explosive expansion of the industry. My childhood begun in the era of VHS and ended with iMacs. Growing up, the uncertainty created by these developments led to the idea of ‘stranger danger’ and the fear of the access to people that the internet allows. As an adult now, it is this access that allows a colourful dating scene for many, and the strange men and women of the web are behind most of my own experiences. Sorry mum. 

Modern living requires you to co-exist between two realms - one physical and one virtual - the juggling of which can be overwhelming. The expansion of our virtual lives has led to a shrinking of our physical ones, as we spend more time on our sofa and less time in our community. Yet our virtual lives are forever expanding, mainly through the worldwide reach of the internet and the otherworldly grasp of film and television. Through a screen we are omnipresent, yet in reality we are becoming a society of introversion. 

But who is to say what is reality or not anymore? So much of our lives are online based nowadays that it can’t just be dismissed. Many people’s whole careers are based online and the technology sector employs millions. It is also becoming increasingly harder to award more merit to a physical reality, as the limitless possibilities and advancements presented by technology make its increasing importance appear a natural societal advancement. 

Dating is never easy, but these advancements in technology have added another dimension to the usually laborious process. We have more access to people than ever before. You see the problem with modern dating is almost too much choice – it's overwhelming! At your fingertips you have access to a variety of different people with varying intentions and there is an app to satiate even the most obscure desires. With all this choice, how are you meant to choose? Maybe we don’t have to - which is liberating for some - but the expanse that is modern dating can also leave many feeling lonely. We have traded in personal connection and intimacy for Tinder and Pornhub, which serve a purpose but are often emotionally empty pursuits. This lifelessness can be seen in the advent of ‘sexbots’ and other inanimate technologies created with the purpose of quick release. Have we become greedy, thinking only of our own desires, placated by their fulfilment instead of an emotional one?  

Technology has even infiltrated our sex lives, bridging the gap between physical and virtual relationships. This is definitely an advancement, as no one can move as fast as the turbo-powered-fuck-machines they sell at Ann Summers, but it is interesting that as well as dominating our dating lives, technology has entered our physical encounters as well. It is clear that technology offers both pros and cons for our dating lives, but is our cyber-sexuality an enhancement or a step towards the diminishing of human interaction?  

I feel that in modern dating we run the risk of complicating things too much, becoming greedy and never settling due to our expanse of choice. Not that this is necessarily bad as I personally enjoy never settling, my main worry is that we may forget altogether the importance of connection - whether that be romantic or friendly – and instead replace our relationships with screens. A dystopian and dramatic statement I know, but a thought for those who exist more behind the screen than in front.  

Written by Isobel Gorman-Buckley