The conventional history, we are told to believe is that the automobile supplied a getaway and mobile love shack for teenage sexuality that allowed it to break free of parental constraint. It can be argued as well that what was lost in this process were rituals of courtship. No longer were the fires of young hormones forced to do a slow burn under the watchful eyes of parents on the porch swing.
Courtship is a slow dance, a way for people to size one another up and test out material in new and sometimes awkward situations. The automobile blasted through all those checkpoints and toll booths.
Some of what the automobile drove off with has been stolen back by digital technology, in particular SMS Texting and IM. The asynchronous (back and forth, but not immediate) and the short-form format give people another avenue of connection that saves them from the long awkward pause and the sweaty face-to-face. Forget about email, most people just aren't gifted or clever enough to mount an outbound email campaign to meet their base needs.
The easily misinterpreted text bites launched with the press of the send button are ideally suited for innuendo, flirting and fumbling your way into a relationship with legs.
It's no surprise that studies show that today's (hormonally fueled) teenagers have eschewed email in favor of TXT and IM. Why leave a pile of awkward conversational history in your wake when you can just hit and run?
What's ironic is that online dating, which is the intentionally engineered social crutch of digital technology seems to be a terrible way to meet people but a great way to do a lot of sport f******.
As is so often the case with technology, it fails to deliver against the intended purpose and the adopted uses and applications are completely unforeseen.
From The Foundation archives: Technology and Culture: The foreseen and the unforeseen