My generation especially (“millennials,” if you prefer a term that makes the group sound as if its existence will end in a cyanide-induced suicide) is utterly conditioned to personalization. Every young person’s iPhone menu is a personality index—an atlas of the self. With every one of our digital interactions calibrated to produce maximum satisfaction, we define adversity down. Who hasn’t reacted to an unwanted pop-up ad as if someone just drove a sedan into the living room? Who hasn’t attempted to fast-forward through commercials only to realize they’re watching live television and had their teeth set slightly on edge? The more our demands are met, the pettier our grievances become.
While this trend has been an economic and technological boon, it’s also lowered our threshold for pain. And pain is the tax that’s applied to love, no matter how deep or how true.
It’s not far-fetched to imagine, as Her does, someone so conditioned to perpetually having the world arranged to flatter his every idiosyncracy that he is willing to entertain the notion of a romance that is fake but effortless over one that is sincere but strenuous. That’s where Her terrifies you: when you realize “my God, people would do this.”
I see this trend in my contemporaries all the time. They’ll disqualify potential mates on the basis of Seinfeldian marginalia.