17 August 2016
will darbyshire photo

In the summer of 2014, I experienced a break-up. It was my first. And I was devastated.

Coping with the demise of my relationship was unlike anything else I’d ever felt before. Someone in my family told me that it was like coping with a death: you grieve in the same way; you’re mourning the loss of a person. I suppose that’s just how I felt: empty and lost, like a piece of me had broken off and crumbled, never to return.

Being an introvert and prone to bouts of anxiety, rather than telling all the people I knew and loved about my problems, instead I took to the strangers of the internet to express my thoughts and feelings. It was daunting at first, but gradually it started to make me feel better. It soon became soothing and cathartic, something I even enjoyed. Words would pour out of me in blog post after blog post and I began to make short films in an attempt to exhaust my emotions. I was still unhappy, but at least I was moving in the right direction. I was being productive.

Then something surprising happened, something I had never intended. People started responding, particularly to the YouTube videos I was making. The viewing figures grew and I realised my thoughts were being revealed to hundreds and then thousands of people. It was scary. Overnight I sort of became a faux ‘agony aunt’. I would receive tens of emails every day from people suffering with heartbreak, who like me needed to offload their feelings. I felt myself personally connecting with people I had never met; all of us binding together to absorb, digest and move on from our experiences.

After a while, the tens of emails became hundreds and my own personal well of knowledge and emotion began to run dry. The cathartic hobby had blossomed into something bigger and much more important than me. I felt there needed to be a better forum for people to express themselves, and so the idea for This Modern Love was born.

This Modern Love

'Love in the modern age is a complex idea. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but with that comes its own set of problems.'

This book, and the project as a whole, is an attempt to provide a safe environment for people to share their thoughts on modern relationships. Over the course of a year, I asked people from all over the world a series of questions and chronicled their responses in the collection of pages that you are about to read. The responses range from letters to pictures to single words, many from far-flung places, often in beautiful languages, always with searing honesty. They highlight the extremes and the humdrum of modern relationships, the large gestures and the tiny nuances that make people tick.

Love in the modern age is a complex idea. We’re more connected then we’ve ever been, but with that comes its own set of problems.

We’re able to maintain relationships over larger distances but we sacrifice our primal need to be physical, to touch, to feel. What seemed impossible a decade ago is quickly becoming the norm, and online behaviour is revolutionising the way we think about love and how we interact with each other.

But does our online connection really make us closer? Does the distance allow us real happiness or heartbreak? I’d like to think the book answers some of these questions, but it also poses many more. Some of the letters are bitter, some of them are raw. Some of them are thankful, and some of them might make you laugh. But they have all made me think about some of our most fundamental needs and desires. And I hope they will do the same for you.

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