Till only a few years ago, a common friend would often play cupid and help bring together two people in love. Cut to today’s date and all one needs is the latest software applications or “apps” — as the junkies like to call it — to perform the task. One just needs to be mindful enough to take down the number of that attractive man or woman one spoke to at a certain social do, or to add him or her on Facebook. Keeping in touch or beginning a conversation has never been so easy. Cupid need not shoot his arrows anymore.
Romantic comedies in Hollywood had long started flirting with the idea of virtual romance. The idea was explored in movies like Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail (1998), as also in the British film, Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). In the latter, Jones (Renée Zellweger) flirts online with her boss (Hugh Grant), something she would not dare to do in person. This quickly leads to a liaison of sorts, but is over no sooner than it begins — such is the short-lived nature of most virtual romances.
When one relies heavily on technology to aid courtship, there are several hurdles to be crossed. Its unabashed use can spell doom for amorous encounters in their nascent stage, destroying them before they get the chance to blossom into full-fledged relationships.
In most cases, long romantic relationships seem passé when they migrate from the virtual world to the real — a certain feeling of disengagement and duality seeps into them. Most young urbanites who claim to be in love often resort to terse and trivial small talk using their WhatsApp application on phones. These conversations usually go thus: “Hi/Wassup? /How’s your day?/ In the café/ Spilled coffee/ LOL/GN sweetie, /Tk cr”. WhatsApp is one of the latest innovations in texting services that, users claim, helps them stay ‘connected’ to their loved ones.
Consequently, the space for real conversation is shrinking dramatically. This has lead to a kind of alienation because people seldom talk for long over coffee or even on the phone. There will perhaps come a time when men would not ask women out for a drink or a coffee anymore: they would rather ‘add’ the object of their affection on Facebook or on WhatsApp and date, virtually.
In the urban dating game, those few people who have still not been hit by the next wave of technology and do not have either an android-enabled phone to access WhatsApp or a functional, high-speed internet connection to log into Facebook, have slim chances of romance. The possibilities of a second meeting is often dictated by that one beep on the phone and that one ping on Facebook. Technology brings people close really fast — it takes three texts, one call and one long chat on Facebook to begin a relationship. But often, it takes even less time for these relationships to end.
Moreover, various new social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, have given birth to a perpetual unease in relationships, fuelling insecurity. The constant need to keep on checking one’s girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s profile on Facebook for status updates and their Twitter timelines for the latest posts has become an addiction of sorts. It is like the regular dose of cocaine for a drug addict.
One text is enough to end an affair, without the parties engaging in a heated verbal exchange — the necessary text may go something like, “We are done, it is not going to work out.” Break-up is just one text, one phone call and one status message away. One can just change the relationship status on the Facebook page to ‘single’ instead of ‘committed’ and the job is done.
Intrigue in courtship is dead, correspondence through love letters is the stuff of period films. And if John Keats and Emily Dickinson are turning in their graves, one should blame the tech-monster for it.