With great nostalgia, I look back at the dying, almost dead art of writing letters. The sepia hued days of passing notes, dialling the rotary phone and referring books from the library. Nostalgia, because as I am from the generation that affected change and then lived to miss the old days. It feels like we have come a long way into this new world of social media and relationships.
The bygone days of silent love that spanned years …nay decades without any expression except what was understood and inferred in the language of the eyes seem faded like yellowed pages of a yellowed book. Love was meant to last forever and there was no ambiguity when you said those three words to someone. It was with complete certainty that you laid your heart bare.
The beautiful safe days of no mobile cameras when our transgressions could not be recorded to be used at a later opportune time. I miss those days of safety, of gentleness, of naivety.
That is not to say that I don’t enjoy the access technology has given us to information, to connectivity to video calling.
We Isolated Ourselves To Find Company
To say that technology and social media have affected relationships and how they are conducted in this new millennium would not be a stretch.
Whether adversely or not is for us to infer.
WhatsApp took the place of letters, video calling replaced phone calls, friends setting us up became a thing of the past with dating apps mushrooming with the speed of lightning. We isolated ourselves to find company. The number of virtual friends increased even as we made excuses to avoid meeting our friends in the real world. We started living our lives on Facebook and one-upmanship took on a new meaning. The high as the likes on the pic increased became far more important than relaxing with our loved ones.
How could love and our search for it remain unaffected with social media trickling so far into our everyday lives?
Love can be staged just like everything else in life
Let me give you an example of love on social media.
A couple of years ago, at a family lunch, a gaggle of my young nieces twittered over a phone message. On inquiring, I realized that they were admiring a young man’s attempt at ‘Gatsbying’.
What is that? I asked
‘Gatsbying’, is making your crush notice you and, from there, you can wait and see how he/she reacts. The best way to do this as a millennial is, of course, to post an Instagram or Snapchat story that’s sure to capture the attention of the said crush. This act of posting a story on Instagram tailoring it to appeal to one person is called ‘Gatsbying’.
In this case, the crush is one of the above-mentioned nieces. Since it was ephemeral in nature the post would disappear in 24 hours and so it just had to be seen asap, as they were not in his followers’ list.
I groaned. Just when I was tentatively figuring out Instagram now there were Insta stories to figure out too.
If you are anything like me, technically challenged and obtuse but determined to learn, let me explain.
Insta stories are sweet nothings that remind people you are a unique individual and have an active life and a way of putting yourself out there.
Can it be staged?
Of course, just like everything else in life.
What followed was an hour-long discussion that led me to accept that attracting the attention of a specific friend had just taken on several new connotations. One needed to hit the right notes to be heard.
This became the bedrock of the question of relationships and the effect social media has on it. Love on social media has become a different ballgame altogether.
Increasingly I find marriage becoming a byproduct of this age
The seed took root and as I watched the social media stage a few things became apparent.
- Social media is not evil or bad… it is the reflection of what we are as people.
- Our likes, dislikes, posts may not define the people we are but we put them out for consumption hence crying wolf is silly.
- People have…are…will always be judgmental. Make peace with it.
- New connections can be initiated; lost friends can be found but eventually, it is fleeting. It is on us to take that virtual friendship to its physical implication.
- Undoubtedly expectations from our loved ones to fulfill our desire for validation, appreciation and expression of their love increases manifold when we see it happen to others. Deal with the lacunae if it does not happen, poke your partner with what you want and if it happens with hints only…God, you are lucky.
- Dating has become easier and one can go in with a fair idea of what to expect.
- Matrimonial sites use social media to their advantage as do the couples by splashing their pictures and staking their claim.
In this age of instant gratification, few people have the time to invest in a relationship that will eventually fizzle out. Increasingly I find marriage becoming a byproduct of appropriate age. Hence it is not the end-all of life and truthfully should not be perceived as the end.
The acceptance of sexual freedom and sexuality has brought about a mini-revolution of hookups in our country. Social media via its dating apps has aided the young and the old to find companionship for the time they are most comfortable with.
Dating apps rule the roost
Tinder, Truly Madly, Happn, Woo, Ok Cupid, Hinge, Coffee meets Bagel, Aisle, Badoo, Final words, are a few of the most used dating apps.
I found Grindr, a dating app for bi, trans and gay diaspora.
And I say why not. Sex between two consenting adults who are otherwise unattached is their business. It is when people purposefully mislead others is when I have a problem. But then again before social media became a thing people would deceive others for the sheer pleasure and thrill of control or due to plain old insecurity and lack of confidence.
To my mind, social media has only brought us closer to who we truly are as people.
Clearly everything is not roses. There is a strange fakeness, a veneer that comes off pretty quick when you meet someone whose life you may have admired on social media. Several times I have to be mindful of the fact that it reflects only one aspect of a relationship.
You can’t really see grey on Facebook. Can you?
Social Media creates a false sense of fulfillment
The other side of the spectrum would be throning, where one wants to date someone who will enhance their personal profile. You-turn, Banksy, Scrooging are some of the other negatives that float up in this virtual cesspool.
There is a false sense of fulfillment, an element of the increased thrill of unpredictability. The scroll wheel once set in motion is like a black hole that sucks you in.
This translates to relationships as well. When the same satisfaction is available at the click of a button why would people feel motivated to spend time and effort in cultivating a friendship? They take work and effort and sacrificing one’s own desires.
When these relationships have to face the test of the big bad world would they be able to sustain themselves when the rewards dry up and the appreciation is not forthcoming? Would the patience that is required to deal with everyday life be hard to find in such relationships? I wonder.
The anonymity of a virtual profile in dating and matrimonial sites allows the stage to be littered with many broken expectations and hearts alike. Social media and relationships are indeed a constantly changing scenario.
De-addiction centres for social media addicts
What starts as alike on an attractive picture can quickly turn into stalking if one is not discerning. Women are obviously more susceptible to trolling and negative comments and I say this with the utmost respect for men who call out the trolls or who are unjustly picked on.
There are de-addiction centres for social media addicts opening all over our country as more and more people are recognizing that their digital lives have taken over their relationships and their real lives.
Recently a friend who was struggling through a tough marriage informed her group on social media about her battle with domestic violence. I was taken aback. I would never have known from her ever-smiling persona about her tribulations.
It was equally heartening to see people stand up and offer help and respond immediately. Had she not had this platform at her disposal it wouldn’t have been possible to get the help she needed.
The conclusion to the dichotomy
The conclusion to this dichotomy that is we should use social media in moderation, exert self-control and take everything we see on social media with a pinch of salt. Technology is a tool; it is how we use it that is the key.
Just like with driving and drinking maybe these devices should have an age restriction. It should only be given when we know that the individual is equipped to handle the consequences of their actions.
Gratitude for what we have has to be cultivated because there is going to be an Ambani to every common man.
Everything may not be staged but it is a moment in time. Transient and fleeting. Where there are smiles there is bound to be strife and that is why probably the smiles are sweeter.
Let us urge ourselves to shut that device off at times and be present for the people who are in our real lives.