Love in the time of technology: an app to record every digital moment
THERE is nothing more romantic than the technology of us. Of apps built to help find love, to nurture it through all-night communication, to document and share it and then to break it into a thousand glassy shards that you continue to step on barefoot for months to come.
The newest is called Shryne, “a safety deposit box for your digital memories”. Rather than deleting your exes’ texts and burning their presents out by the bins, this is an app that will archive every moment of your lives online, and set it in a crystallised feed, from suspenseful beginning right through to tortured end.
The tentative Facebook comments, heavy with anticipation and the threat of rain. The 2am sexts, featuring topical news stories of the day, and the pass-agg emails, and the increasing number of “Where are you??” messages.
Had Shryne not been invented, it would have been possible to look back at a relationship through your Google search history – driving instructions to a B&B in Whitstable, “easy beef Wellington recipe”, “early pregnancy signs”, “how to clear cache”. Or to map it through Amazon purchases and Twitter favourites, and ironic Instagram hashtags.
What this does, however, is let you see the relationship as a narrative, one which, with another click, you can “freeze” – it will hide the whole timeline for a year, until you’re ready. Until you’re sure you’re ready.
Like the postmaterialist trend for decluttering your home, this is the app to Kondo your memories. A microscopic filing cabinet in the shape of a deflated little heart. A cabinet you might revisit, as one friend said, for the same reason he licked batteries when he was little. That sharp, tiny, pleasurable pain.
Elsewhere there are apps aimed at the broken promise to delete your past. It’s no longer the forgotten toothbrush or T-shirt that threatens our recovery, it’s the Spotify playlist, the Facebook alert. Hence the browser plugin Block Your Ex, that wipes your ex from your internet (beware: ex limit is five), and Ex Lover Blocker, which alerts three friends the night when you try to contact an old flame. If you ignore their warnings, it shames you on Facebook.
Drunkdial will deter you from calling an ex by forcing you to pass a series of maths tests to prove you’re sober. Killswitch simply murders them, digitally – they will disappear from your feeds for ever. And, nice touch, part of their proceeds goes to the American Heart Association.
But I prefer the concept of Shryne to Killswitch, if only so you have something your therapist can consult on the days when your throat hurts. If only so you have evidence that once you were loved. Technology has become so entwined with love that not only do relationships begin there, on a swiped phone screen, but potential mates are beginning to be defined by the apps they use.
A recent New York Times essay titled Swearing off the Modern Man discussed a woman’s decision to date a man who was “completely off the grid: no Twitter, no Instagram. He didn’t even have Facebook. How sexy is that?” After a failed relationship with somebody she subsequently tracked on social media, she wanted “something too big to contain in 140 characters and that couldn’t be improved upon by filters.”
Except, by the end of the story, I was left vaguely baffled by the conceit that the apps maketh the man. Surely, rather than allowing it to form us, we choose the technology that suits. Rarely do we fall so deep into its well that we can’t climb out.
These apps might enable love, but they can’t prevent heartbreak. Like diet plans, it’s not in their interests to keep you content – they want you ecstatic then tearful, hot then cold, then ready to start over again. If it’s any consolation though, as you sit alone, single as a seven inch, scrolling through your internet of exes, be aware that thousands of others are sitting doing the same. So, really, nobody dies alone.