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Liquid love: the commodification of love in the 21st century

Liquid love: the commodification of love in the 21st century

September 23, 2022

Liquid love is the prevailing romantic philosophy of our time .

It is likely that, at some point in your life, you have heard about the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and his concept of "liquid love". The enunciation can not be more graphic: liquid love, an image that is the perfect metaphor for something common in our society: the fragility of sentimental relationships .

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Liquid love: defining the concept

It is typical of the information society and consumption in which we find ourselves. People give more value to present experience, to freedom without any kind of ties , to the punctual and little responsible consumption and to the immediate satisfaction of the corporal and intellectual needs. Everything that does not meet the requirement of immediacy, of "throwaway", is discarded.

Liquid love, then, refers to the fragility of sentimental bonds , alludes to the need not to establish deep emotional roots with the people we meet in life, in order to remain emotionally detached and thus be able to fit into an environment in constant mutation. However, liquid love not only refers to our relationships with others, but also to our relationship with ourselves, because Bauman considers that we live in a culture that stands out for the "liquidity of self-love" of individuals.

Related article: "Mature love: why is the second love better than the first?"

Loving others starts with oneself

Many people fail to understand that to love another individual deeply is necessary to love yourself first. This, which is a reality that few doubt, is not usually the basis on which many relationships are built, in which other values ​​and needs that have little to do with emotional well-being prevail.

This is one of the shortcomings of our culture, which pushes us to have a partner even when it would be necessary for individuals to know each other and build their self-esteem before going out to seek emotional and sentimental support in another human being. This leads us to emotional dependence, that is, to depend on the approval and esteem of others to sustain our self-esteem, which can generate suffering and discomfort.

Liquid love in the individualistic culture

Western culture, in many cases, does not impel us to create bonds of trust in the long term, and many people have serious difficulties to feel accompanied and loved. This tendency not to create lasting relationships is explained by the great responsibility and transcendence that this would imply, a "stumbling block" that we are not motivated to assume .

It can also be due to the fear of feeling cheated or injured. The fear of love or philophobia usually paralyze us and avoid everything that sounds like commitment, making it impossible for us to create solid and deep relationships.

Liquid connection versus long-term love

Zygmunt Bauman develops in his many essays several theories and reflections on love in our time. Today, he says, loving relationships are based more on physical attraction than on a deep connection on a more personal level . They are relations marked by the individualism of both members, in which contact is ephemeral, and this is known in advance, which increases their sporadic and superficial relationship. A love that is born to be consumed and consummated, but never to be sublimated.

The idea of ​​liquid love of Bauman puts in the spotlight the individualism of our societies , the constant search for the immediate satisfaction of our desires, the throwaway experiences and the commodification of personal relationships. Hence the notion of liquid love, in the yes of a society that does not want to show strong and lasting emotions, but prefers to jump from flower to flower in search of fleeting and anodyne pleasures. Is the multitasking mode applied to the world of relationships.

The virtual world and its influence on the emergence of ephemeral love

Perhaps the emergence of social networks and new technologies has played a role in consolidating this trend suffered by many people. We live in a world in constant change, where the virtual and the real are confused with astonishing ease.

Sometimes this can make the most sensitive people despair , because the high pace of life makes it extremely difficult for us to connect with other people at an emotional level.

Mercantile values, commercial love

If we maintain relationships with an expiration date, it is because society pushes us to do so , to have increasingly weak and flexible links, to take little root wherever we go. That's how they educate us, that's how we are.We teach children that they can have toys and gadgets technological if they pass the next exam, and we are introducing them into a market culture where one should only be motivated by the rewards that are obtained in exchange for their work, thus canceling the intrinsic motivations and the genuine tastes of each person.

This promotes the feeling that not only objects but also people are consumable, and therefore potential sexual partners are objectified. That person that attracts us is not more than a piece of meat that should be tasted, and it is not necessary that we worry about their desires, worries, needs, tastes ... How are we going to connect emotionally with someone if we are only interested in having something carnal?

Liquid love and reification

Another of the great pillars in which he holds liquid love is the reification of people. That is, the tendency to perceive and value people as objects, things. Means, finally, to achieve an end: physical pleasure, social acceptance of others, etc.

Liquid love would be conveyed through reification because it gives the opportunity to create widely disposable relationships. Therefore, the flexibility when relating to other people would go hand in hand with the lack of empathy towards them.

Possible reflections to check liquid love

Obviously, we must fight the scale of values ​​of our societies to combat liquid love and its undesirable effects in our well-being Human beings are not objects that wait to be consumed: we think, we crave, we fail, we feel ... To begin to subvert the established order, it is necessary to begin to value ourselves more, and to feel that we are worthy of being respected and valued, in the same way as any other individual.

Liquid love can be fun but it is also ephemeral, which can leave us with a sense of existential emptiness. Consumers are always willing to buy more things, but that does not make them happy because the material always ends up fading. Do we want to be consumerist also with personal relationships?

Causes of liquid love

1. Insecurity

One of the causes of liquid love is insecurity and lack of self-esteem. If we do not perceive ourselves as fully capable and deserving of having a serious, loyal and deep relationship, it is difficult for us to find a person who does want to maintain a close relationship with us.

2. Low self-esteem

Following the previous point, insecurity and poor self-esteem are two sides of the same coin. If we only seek to momentarily satisfy our need to relate, it is because we do not have enough emotional maturity to reach deep contact with that person that attracts us. We do not want to put our emotional well-being in check by handing ourselves over too quickly to someone , which is fine but can hurt us if we take it to an extreme and we put a breastplate before others.

On the other hand, if we trust in ourselves we can go forward little by little, noticing what the other person's desires are and being able to develop good feelings in a reciprocal way, with more lasting and stable relationships. The well understood commitment is born of the union of interests and tastes , and also of the tenderness that both people profess.

3. Slavery

If we want to be happier, says Bauman, we have to be inspired by two universal values: freedom and security . To shy away from slavery is to recognize that the two values ​​mentioned must coexist in harmony. That is the key to love and one of the maxims for a sentimental couple to work.

Martin Fowler in Barcelona, by ThoughtWorks (September 2022).

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