Your Compliment Offends Me

Submitted into Contest #57 in response to: Write a story about someone breaking a long family tradition.... view prompt


Romance Science Fiction


The following is an excerpt from an article which originally appeared at titled 'How An App Broke the Traditional Family' dated 11/17/2076.


...all of these factors were already contributing to a rapid evolution in human breeding and interpersonal habits, it was a simple app that began the final unraveling of the traditional family that began with our prehuman ancestors.


Romander (romance reminder) was released at the tail end of 2020, which had already been a turbulent year for numerous reasons, and was available for free on the now-obsolete Apple and Android platforms. The premise was simple. Those who signed up for the app were given random prompts, via an alert on their device, to pay their romantic partner a compliment. A suggestion was made based on information about your partner and relationship that the user volunteered in a questionnaire upon signing up, which also told Romander how frequently it should send you these random prompts.


It had seemed innocent enough at the time, and became wildly popular all across the world, named by Forbes as one of the top ten new apps of the year. However that popularity also led to the issues which began to emerge within six months of the release. This is when therapists began warning the public of the danger of using Romander, although their cautions were largely ignored by the general public.


The problem, as it initially appeared, occurred when one partner suspected the other of using the app. Lovers began checking the other's devices to see if the compliments they were being given were authentic, or had been prompted by the app. The idea that an app had been behind the acts of kindness introduced suspicion and doubt into a growing number of relationships.


Romander thought they could solve that problem by changing how their platform operated, much as the ill-fated Facebook app had tried to cover up inherent issues with superficial changes before it was banned by the Dublin Convention in 2024. In both cases the fundamental psychological context of using the platform was counterproductive and detrimental. The second version, which came out 11 months later, was not even an app. It was a commercial subscription service, which doubled shareholder value almost overnight. When you signed up for Romander, you picked a company (or several) to text you product discount offers. The user would know the pizza coupon was really a prompt to tell their loved one how beautiful they looked today, but there would be no direct evidence that their partner could obtain.


Yet the damage had already been done. All over world discussion had been taking place about the very nature of compliments and romantic love. Psychology Matters magazine summed up the arguments taking place in their December 2021 issue.


"Why is a prompted compliment less meaningful than an unprompted one? Say, for instance, you told your partner how handsome he looks. Does this mean you only think that when you say it? If you always think that, but are just saying it now, doesn't that make the declaration random anyhow? If compliments are always random reminders of positive thoughts and feelings we have even when not giving the compliment, then why should an electronically prompted random compliment mean less?"


The general consensus, however, was that it did mean less. It was not authentic. And besides just eroding the memory of compliments given in the past, it made them feel sinister and manipulative. The article continues...


"From an evolutionary perspective love, and all of our emotions, are essentially manipulative. They are conditioned behaviors which were beneficial in mating and survival. Our sociability and tendency towards cooperation all evolved from subtle cues we used to manipulate one another into getting along and working together. Romantic love increased the survival chances of offspring, and so evolved as a set of adaptive behaviors. Over time these adaptations began to feel like more than just a pragmatic method of survival. They took on the nuance of meaning and purpose, which helped to strengthen the conditioning, and allowed humanity to flourish."


The industrial era eventually made the need for pair-bonding obsolete. As the population exploded in the 20th century, the evolutionary tactic was no longer required. Humanity had adapted to enjoy intercourse apart from the reproductive drive, and the world became generally easier to survive in. There was simply no longer a need to form pair bonds for our species evolutionary fitness.


At the same time we came to view the conditioned behaviors, things like grief, humor, affirmation and love, as being some inherent quality of our humanity. Gripped by ultra-literalism, we were in denial that we were often operating on momentum, instinct and default cognition and behaviors. Humanity had tried compartmentalizing the pragmatic nature of delusions designed for evolutionary purposes from their attachment to their experiences of those delusions. While most people would claim to believe in evolutionary theory, few were able to admit the role it played in their lives.


Romander was a harsh microscopic illustration of the macroscope of human behaviors and their causes. It became the undeniable proof that those things we had cherished most and seen as our inherent goodness were just machinations of time. The realization was such a shock to humanity that anti-social behaviors, like the drastic spike in the public shooter phenomena that had already been increasing in recent years, became far more frequent. Humanity became defiant against the evolutionary forces which had shaped them, and began fighting against those boundaries in order to regain a sense of free will.


Fortunately it only took a few years of that kind of deviance to illustrate the need for willful harmony and cohesion. What had previously been a force-of-habit became a choice, which led to even higher orders of sociability and cooperation over time. The only thing that did not recover was the traditional family.


As we know, the idea of love was not abandoned. It simply became divorced from toxic associations like possessiveness, jealousy and exclusivity. Love became fluid. It no longer thrust us into a role that was created by forces beyond ourselves.


Although Romander and the role it played in reshaping human behavior, is little more than a historical curiosity today, it is perhaps the most influential technology humanity has ever encountered. Its importance has been overshadowed by the technological singularity of 2027, which further disrupted evolutionary patterns by creating the post-scarcity technology that allows our civilization...

August 30, 2020 21:59

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Charles Stucker
17:23 Aug 31, 2020

"There was simply no longer a need to form pair bonds for our species evolutionary fitness." species's Science note- successful societies since antiquity have all had strong marriage customs. One can see social evolution- children of two parents are typically more capable than children of a single mother. The thesis of "It takes a village" is provably false. "At the same time we came to..." needs a comma after time. 2027 post singularity is a pretty strict timeframe for making your tale obsolete. Having the entire piece as an ar...


Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your perspective. :)


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Zea Bowman
01:51 Sep 22, 2020

Wow! I was truly captivated by this story! Your descriptions were amazing, and the words seemed to flow together. You really have a knack for writing! Could you please come read a story (or stories) of mine? Thanks! Keep up the good work! :)


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