Monday, September 07, 2015

Increasingly Public Personal Life Fraught With Challenges

Many examples of generational shift are quite apparent to my generation. Not all of it is bad. Some of it seems to be tightly tied to technology. As in, my generation would have done the same thing had today's technology been available. That's why it's hard for me to take seriously some of the generational condescension spewed by my generation.

One thing that has intrigued me is the rise of the "promposal." That's where teens go all out just to ask a date to a school dance. Last spring Main St reported that teens now spend an average of $324 just to ask a date to prom. Many dates spend an equivalent amount responding to the invitation. It has become very common for these promposals to appear on YouTube, where teens hope that their video will go viral.

The total cost of going to prom reportedly hovers around $1,000 "per household," give or take $100 or so, depending on where you live. That appears to include the cost of the promposal. As I understand it, this means that a couple attending prom spends somewhere around $2,000 for one date.

It shouldn't be surprising that the generation that has grown up with this paradigm is following the same pattern when it comes to marriage proposals and wedding receptions. Proposals are becoming increasingly public and expensive. I'm not the only one that thinks there are some issues with this trend. Studio C has a satirical sketch about an attempt to produce a viral wedding proposal video.
I couldn't find data on the average cost of a wedding proposal. But I suppose it can be presumed that the trend is similar to that of promposals. Wedding receptions are going that direction too, currently running around $25,200 for a party that lasts a few hours.

There are likely many reasons for these trends. Some speculate that as marriage rates decline, those marrying feel that it's increasingly important to make a grander statement about their commitment to each other. Others think that all of these grandiose displays are attempts to compensate for the declining rate of marital commitment, which increases the risk of marital failure. We turn the whole thing into a three-ring circus in a vain attempt to recapture the level of couple commitment that has been lost in the wake of increasing personal freedom.

I'm grateful that my generation didn't have to deal with the social media landscape that developing relationships today must navigate. Not only can everyone find out all kinds of things about prospective dates, it would be irresponsible not to do so. But those public personas available on social media can say things about us that may portray an unbalanced picture of who we are.

Recently, friends and family of a young couple celebrated as the couple's courtship advanced to the point of a marriage proposal. The proposal itself was a huge event with many friends and family members in attendance (along with elements you might see at a circus).

The couple went through all of the normal wedding arrangements. Then just as they were preparing to mail out formal wedding announcements, one partner backed out. Not only was the party off, housing arrangements were thrown into disarray. The couple remains friendly with each other, but the sheer fact of the matter is that the defunct romance shared by this couple is now public record on social media that any future prospective date will be see.

It will be easy for these people's future partners to compare themselves with the partner that didn't work out. I suppose that happened in the days before social media. Only now the new partners will have access to the romantic photos, videos, and love notes from the failed relationship for the rest of their lives.

While it would be easy to grouse about the younger generation, all of this is simply part of the culture in which they live. It's the culture that my kids are swimming in. Each generation faces a unique set of problems and this is among the problems of today's younger generation. I wish my kids well. While I will gladly to what I can to help them navigate the world where they live, they will face many things that are beyond my capacity to help with.

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