Is love an overrated social construct

Love is a strange code

"Love is often overrated," says a legendary song by the Lassie Singers. The band stands with this and thematically related titles such as The couple lie pretty abandoned in a pop-cultural music universe that consists of what feels like 98 percent numbers that revolve in some way around the great complex of love. Whereby with the keyword "felt" we would already be in the middle of the topic. Because it feels like you can hardly overestimate love in our current life models. The monopoly of long-lasting two-way relationships (or the lack thereof) shapes and shapes a good part of our everyday lives.

But what does love mean today? Does the romantic ideal of love crumble in times of Tinder, Youporn and sex robots? Is love becoming more and more a temporary business that follows the market capitalist laws of rational weighing and decision-making? Or is the longing for a conservative model of the classic couple relationship becoming more and more urgent in times of digitization and anonymization, as value studies among young people suggest?

Old-fashioned initiation

These different "fashions in love practice" are not a contradiction in terms for Kornelia Hahn, sociologist at the University of Salzburg. "We see in our research that the new communication technologies in particular are reviving older forms of initiation." After all, it is a feature of dating portals that you do not meet in person at first, but use detailed written chats to scan with whom you could really fit together.

It was not much different in the pre-digital times: marriage brokers, newspaper advertisements and correspondence also set relationships in motion in writing. "Finding a partner at a distance is not new, just the type of medium," says Hahn. "Especially those who strive for a long-term relationship rely on long-term communication before they get involved in an intimate relationship."

No question about it: apps like Tinder, which allow profiles to be matched in seconds, and speed dating and fling portals offer completely new opportunities to quickly make a lot of contacts and live out non-binding love needs of all kinds. Ultimately, the "menu" of potential partners from which one can choose has become significantly more diverse.

Concepts of romantic love

And yet: Even the Internet and social media have not led to a structural change in the ideas of romantic love, as Kornelia Hahn has found out. In a study in which she analyzed "success stories" published on Parship, it was shown that the happy reunification of the couples concerned is not perceived as something that has come about through algorithms and the active action of those involved, but rather the influence of a " higher power "is attributed.

What is behind this ominous power of love that makes us sweat at the beginning of being in love and welds us together later? Apart from the fact that, from an evolutionary point of view, it should simply serve to preserve our species, it is a culturally determined construct. "The concept of romantic love emerged in novels of the 18th century long before it was lived, and is closely related to the development of individualism," says Hahn. "This ideal has prevailed in large sections of the population since the Second World War." Until then, the couple relationship was largely a reason-based, pragmatic instrument for securing or enhancing livelihoods, but the cultural script of the concept of romance provides that love suddenly appears in our lives, at first sight. Fateful, unfounded and without any own intervention. She is unique and forever.

Sounds like Hollywood ham? It is. At least when it comes to sociologists like Niklas Luhmann, who stated in the late 1960s that love is not a feeling, but a communication code, an interpretation of feelings based on images produced by the media, i.e. films. "There is an interaction between the ideas of romantic love, as they are reproduced in Hollywood films, and the social norms that develop in everyday life as a result," says Hahn. In this way, the basic patterns of the romantic couple relationship would have solidified more and more - even if they can only rarely be sustained. Youporn works according to the same principle, to which more and more young people are orienting themselves: "What Hollywood does not show, continues with Youporn. This is how ideas of sexual experiences solidify."

Virtual love rush

The future holds completely different love technologies in store: Personalized sex robots, pimped with artificial intelligence, should lead to unexpected climaxes, digital avatars help create a virtual intoxication of love. Or simply serve as a nice companion, like the holographic assistant Azuma Hikari, who lives in the Gatebox, a Japanese version of the Amazon Echo, and allegedly wants to sweeten the life of her "master". The futurologist Matthias Horx speaks in his book Future love from the "digital outsourcing of sex". The British futurologist Ian Pearson is even convinced that by 2050 we will have sex with machines that are connected to our nervous system and can simulate an ultimate bond.

But you can have a love affair with a robot, fall madly in love with an operating system, like in Spike Jonze's film Her? Why not, says Kornelia Hahn: "If it makes sense subjectively, romantic feelings can be projected onto robots as well as real people. And if you assume that love is always an idea, a social invention, it becomes blurred also the categorical difference between man and machine. "

Even if the existence of the true, only love for life cannot be empirically confirmed, humanity will not allow itself to be dissuaded from its romantic ideas so quickly - with or without technical aids. On the contrary, as Hahn states: "The desire to have a romantic relationship is more constant than ever. The climax has not yet been reached." (Karin Krichmayr, March 21, 2018)

Focus on feelings

Spring awakens spirits, they say: That should be due to the sun, the light and the warmth. The level of melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone, which is increased in winter, declines, but its counterpart, the happy serotonin, comes to the fore. That's why we fall in love much easier at this time of year than on cold days. We are happier, more active. Of course, most of the emotions occupy us in other seasons as well. You can of course be happy skiing in winter too. We seem to be obsessed with some feelings. Above all, hatred on the Internet is ubiquitous. There are feelings that evolution has taught us (fear) that can save our lives, but are also partly culturally conditioned (disgust). Does that make us unique?

Continue reading:

The phenomenon of disgust: what is a horror?