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Love in the Time of Smartphones
Love in the Time of Smartphones

This month, Staff Blogger NAINA HIRANANDANI describes how we’re interacting and dating in the digital age.

“He asked me out!” she squealed on the phone. “Did he now?” I droned in nonchalance. You see this courageous man in question had met my friend during a marathon set across an Indian desert. Apart from the concern that one would even find cactus appealing during a sporting event held in a dry state, I learnt that the entire getting-to-know-another phase had taken place through a spate of furious text messages. In two weeks, they discussed what they ate for lunch; whose boss was worse and how bad the traffic in their respective cities is – but none of it had happened face to face.

Dating in the current millennium comes with its share of challenges. If you thought Facebook-stalking and instant messaging was your biggest worry, wait till you’ve met its raunchy cousin, the sexting tool – Snapchat. Suddenly you’re wondering why random people are sending you images of their unmentionables – and asking for yours. This soon gave birth to the ‘felfie’ – a fake selfie that isn’t even you. But the brother from another inferno is WhatsApp. Apparently, real-life human interaction is so 2008 – thanks to the numerous outlets to connect with sometimes-anonymous people – all in the hope of finding ‘the one’. In the digital age, your only claim to fame is your virtual identity, which has to be far more exciting than you are in person. Here are the three things it mostly revolves around:

1)     The profile picture. It has to resonate sexy, but with serious vagueness. Example: Pouting red lips. Or that Chinese tattoo you got on your shoulder (that actually translates to jack***). But the easiest solution? Upload a photo from 8 years ago. For the au natural look, try the fake sleeping selfie (hair perfectly fluffed, cutely smiling in your sleep). If you’re trying to project yourself as the fancy jet setter, go with clicks of expensive Champagne, tropical beaches/sunsets, views from your airline window (“I have Wi-Fi over Instanbul”) or snapshots of drunken debauchery at Tomorrowland. If you’ve had the same picture for over a week, even your mother won’t feign interest.

2)     Visibility. Has your status been ‘online’ for more than 60 minutes during primetime Saturday? Obviously you have no social life – allowing your night stalker to ping you with “Hey. What’s up?” In reality, you’re chilling with your cat and probably eating some form of unregulated carbs/sugar. What’s worse? You’re watching Raja Babu at home and seriously lawling. But in response, you quickly make up something about being stuffed from your dinner at that posh dim sum place. I mean, who’s watching anyway? After you fake-talk to each other for 10 minutes, all that remains is an empty phone screen.

3)     Your virtual dates. Day one: He pings. You get excited. You both make plans. Then he cancels. Day two: You don’t want to appear desperate so you decide to give it a day’s rest. Day three: He pings. You get excited. You both make plans. This time you can’t make it. Day four and five are spent in persistent stalking. Day six: You finally decide to meet tonight. Except until 8:00 PM, he hasn’t messaged you the venue. You’re breathing as heavy as Captain Phillips. Then he finally pings at 9.30 PM. “Sorry dude, got caught up at work.” The more disturbing part of this correspondence: He called you dude. Does that mean he’s friendzoned you already?

Welcome to the new traumas of dating, where an endless charade of fickleness is not just the innovative agenda of one person on your contact list; it’s probably the whole lot. Don’t even try doing the math for how many other people your serial texter is pinging simultaneously. One would think a phone call would be more convenient, but hey, this is more free pain. One of my friends joked that she would have to choose between her high-powered banking job and texting, in order to get to know the guy she’s interested in. As textee, she was compelled to respond his incessant small talk.

So what happened to the good old days when people asked you for your number and made plans? What happened to meeting someone at your favorite bar, letting your hair down and having a fun evening that wasn’t born out of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-inducing activity. If you think about it, all these channels were meant to ease communication, but ironically, they’ve also made us more evasive and cold. When you’re having a good time for three hours, you often forget that you have 14 messages, three Facebook alerts and five emojis on your phone. What do you even say in response to an annoyingly over-smiling smiley? Cusses aside, smiley back.

Your dating life remains in flux between a Twitter stalker, Facebook-liker and serial Instagrammer. We invite people into our not-so-secret lives through vacation photos to Finland, last night’s gourmet meal and a status update about how we’re feeling. Yet, non-committal communication is what we choose to exaggeratedly present opportunity in relationships, not progress within them. Flaky is casual. Casual is cool. In a generation that thrives on instant gratification, in four minutes we want to explore what we haven’t even encountered. Judging someone before we’ve met them is easy – just grill your mutual friends. Their biases become ours.

In case you’d like to introduce yourself to the concept of a real relationship, then well, every once in a while, instead of texting a thrilling essay of how your dog can somersault backwards, pick up the phone and talk. Weave in how you’d maybe like to do something fun outdoors or catch that new Liam Neeson flick. By visualizing their reaction on the other end of the phone, hearing them awkwardly laugh or shooing away an inquisitive roommate, trust me, it is so much more rewarding than the ubiquitous ping.

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