As I lie on my bed, phone above my face, I scrolled through my plethora of apps and felt a jolt as a small vibration let me know that I had received another flirtatious message. I opened the message and my semi smiling face turned quickly to confusion as I read the message over and over, it said;
“Oh, I’ve never heard of You’ve Got Mail but I’d be down to watch it with you if you want to re-watch it”
First off, I have watched that movie more times than I can count. Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks & witty romantic banter? My sarcastic, book-loving and hopeless romantic self couldn’t ask for a better combination so a re-watch isn’t even a question.
I know of course that there are hundreds of movies that people haven’t seen but this idea seemed especially ironic to me since the app we were chatting on was “Hinge-Designed to be deleted”, one of the more serious, relationship finding apps. The irony was not lost on me when I realized we were discussing romantic comedies which are designed to have a happy ending, on an app that is designed to program our happy ending using an amour filled algorithm- how romantic.
Second, I realized how dated this movie is but in the worst way possible. It was still sympathetic but now for very different and almost sad reasons. The entire concept of their email romance now seems vintage and like an old love story told by our parents. Another one of Kelly’s iconic lines is the end of the movie, (SPOILER ALERT), the two supposed enemies find out they are each other’s secret email pen pals and she Kelly says:
I wanted it to be you; I wanted it to be you so badly.
How incredibly sad that there are probably hundreds- maybe even thousands of people who have said that exact sentence but instead of it being the romantic end to a story, it’s referencing how different their date looked from their profile picture.
Instead of a girl saying that at the climactic end of her love story, now she says it to herself while she lays in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering why she got ghosted, again.
Third, I literally could not comprehend that this man had not seen this movie. Not because I’m a film snob that pushes my preferences on other people while they add it to the imaginary “list” we all have. But I could not believe it because, without that movie, our current digital dalliance would not even be happening. Joe Fox & Kathleen Kelly were the OG of the internet introduction, the creators of email banter, and the explorers of that tingly, momentary rush of excitement from receiving a new, flirtatious message.
Kathleen described it as: “ I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: ‘You’ve got mail’.”
In today’s new world of computerized courtship, we have all felt that exact feeling; that chiming sound or vibration in your back pocket that leads to the momentary, delicious surge of dopamine to your brain. You feel excited, attracted, wanted for at least a minute, even if it’s separated by a screen.
Our world is currently consumed by an ocean of endless swiping and sometimes the only wave of excitement we’re getting is quickly crushed with the classic, “Netflix & chill?” We are addicted to the feeling of a new match, a new message, a new memory to add to our collection of faded romances.
There’s a reason for that download cycle, download-delete-download because you’re lonely again- but the reason is more scientific rather than comedic.
Dopamine is literally this: a compound present in the body as a neurotransmitter and a precursor of other substances including epinephrine.
What that translates to is that dopamine contributes to all of our feelings of happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction and its buddy epinephrine is the adrenaline that fuels that tiny, tingling rush. With people spending an average of three hours and fifty-five minutes on their phone (that must have been before Tik Tok was invented) that means that at least a part, if not a major part of that satisfaction is being simulated by a screen.
The problem is, we need dopamine, we crave it as it literally makes us happy. But that breath-catching feeling is such a small amount and it’s so fleeting that we are constantly chasing it, constantly waiting for that “You’ve got mail” flood of elation. Instead of dial-up internet and pacing around until the screen loads, it’s refreshing, swiping left, and sending a like until we’re empty again, ready for a reload. Except instead of genuine romantic excitement, we’ve attached to this fabricated feeling, “destructive dopamine”, created by the notification obsession.
I’ve always said I am a hopeless romantic, searching for my romantic comedy ending which has proven to be extremely difficult to find so far but maybe that’s not what I’m or the rest of the population on dating apps is looking for. Maybe we’re looking for something so deep that we can’t find it in our DM’s. Might it be that we are looking for that dopamine hit that lasts, beyond the next message or the difficult times, the rush so intense that even if it means nothing, it feels like something.
“I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”