So, What Ever Happened to Love Letters?

For many college students, Valentine’s Day serves as a reminder of the importance of love- or lack of- in our life. While newsfeeds may be blowing up with couples, it also seems like no young person today is looking for anything serious. In a time when there are more singles than any other period in history, things like romantic gestures and love letters are slowly becoming entities that are only read about in books.

While relationships once meant the ability to gain independence from the family and become an adult, in 2016 many view romance and relationships as something constricting: it means having to adjust one’s life, and make sacrifices during the young years when 20- something year olds are trying to establish their career and enjoy their freedoms before settling down later in life. What does this mean going forward? From what it looks like, a lot of very interesting change in cultural values.

In 2014, Aziz Ansari, a comedian most known by his role as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, teamed up with NYU social psychologist Eric Kleinberg to investigate all around the world the way that relationships exists, especially with technology in the modern world. It covers everything on how our relationship with phones have affected social speaking skills among the younger population, particularly the government intervention for dating sites in Japan due to an extremely low birth rate in recent years that was significantly effecting the population. Some of the biggest takeaways were the importance of using online dating sites (including Tinder) as more of an introduction site that allows singles to connect with the intention to meet up in real life.  

From Ansari to more recently Amy Schumer, many people turn to comedy to question trends in society. As college students today, try looking through parents’ hidden files and it’s very likely that you’ll find handwritten letters. So whatever happened to these love letters? In an interview with a group of men and women, they were asked what age would be most ideal for marriage. While men stated late 30’s to early 40’s, the women stated mid 20’s to early 30’s. With roughly 50% of the adult population unmarried (compared to 22% in the 1950’s) marriage, what once represented freedom from parents and the ability to live on one’s own has lost its original intention and appeal. Perhaps this comes back to the idea of instant gratification. From Ansari describing his own parent's arranged marriage compared to relationships today:

“My parents were in an arranged marriage and their marriage was kind of the best version of an arranged marriage...it starts at a simmer and builds to a boil…my parents are at a boil now, they have a great time together and seem really in love. For people who are trying to get married now, you are trying to find boiling water right away and you have no interest in pursuing it unless it’s boiling from the get go.”

Now with younger individuals, there is a constant need for particularly millennials to be constantly stimulated- having someone text back, like a photo or respond to an email- a completely different sense of wiring from 20 or even 10 years ago. In conclusion, there is a lot more to the changes in relationships than meets the eye, and for the most part, it comes down to different values in the millennial generation. Only time will tell where they will go from here.

Watch Ansari’s full interview here