Love me, love me not!

I was in 7th standard then, watching the finals of inter-class football tournament, when suddenly a boy from my class called me from behind a tree. He was a friend; we took the same bus to school. On approaching him, after struggling for minutes he blurted ‘I love you,’ and ran. That was the first time a boy professed his love for me, a big thing for a 12-year-old girl. I immediately sought out my best friend, gravely reported the incident to her and I was advised never to talk to the boy again.

As we grew up, there were many instances of boys’ expressing their affection, scribbling love notes, letters, lovelorn glances. Most of our lunch break would be spent discussing these overtures at length, advising our friends whether she should take it forward or not. Even when a friend was involved, she would seek our advice and opinion for every little thing, from gifts to letters to sometimes vague suggestions that her boyfriend may have made that could be interpreted any which way.

Those were the days of letters and landlines when we would meet in the bus stands and college canteens, sneak the cordless phone in our room at night to talk to our boyfriends. Our generation then moved to office canteens, theatres, McDonald’s and mobile. SMSs became a popular means of expressing our feelings – witty innuendos, flowery proclamation. Of course, discussing every little matter of heart with a friend or a cousin was still very important.

Digital revolution changed the game. Range of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and the rest widened options for young people seeking someone special. It’s not just the boy next door or your classmate or colleague, we could connect with anyone we liked. Times have changed, so have the rules of love, dating and relationships. It’s all about swiping right when a photograph catches our fancy, prolonged chats to know whether our interests match! With a digital screen masking us, we play with words that may mean different things to different people. While someone may be looking for a casual fling, someone else may be looking for a relationship. You can want whatever you want, but it’s important to know whether your match wants the same. 

From pouring over love letters we started sharing screenshots of Tinder chats. For a second opinion always matters, it’s important to read between lines. An objective observer can see what we, blinded by emotions or carried away by the moment, may ignore. It’s better to get it right in the beginning to save us embarrassment and pain later.

For all those Tindering, you can now huddle with your friends and discuss your matches without having to share screenshots. Yes, Charmed will make it possible soon. The app will allow friends to view each other’s matches including chats and bios. Even if you are not dating you can be on Charmed to advise your friends. 

Wow, whoever thought technology could make it so easy for friends to gather and talk about their love interests! 

The app is currently in beta but you can join the waitlist (www.charmed.app).  

The Photo Album Story: from bulky Family Albums to Going Digital to Digital Hoarding

There was a time, little over a decade ago when family photo albums used to be such prized possessions. Old albums with black & white photographs, butter paper separating each sheet, gave way to the newer plastic album with coloured photographs. I still remember the feel of browsing through those old family albums, fingering the photographs, some of them faded, lovingly. My grandparents posing stiffly with their children, my mom in her school dress or the wedding pictures of parents. Those albums had an intimate appeal, there was something strangely warm about their mothy smell. Then came the bright and happy plastic albums with coloured photographs, mostly pictures of us growing up, cousins getting married.

The charm of black & white

Wedding albums were another story altogether. They were great fun when from a wedding of someone close in the family. I loved flipping through them with my cousins, re-living the moments, sometimes admiring ourselves, sometimes laughing at our silly make-up and hairdo. However, I would dread visiting a neighbour or a distant relative who just had a wedding in the family. For that visit would invariably involve having to go through the bulky wedding album and pretending to admire the bride, the groom and the family who I hardly knew or cared about, accompanied by the constant commentary of an enthusiastic aunt, most often the mother of the bride. Wedding albums were proudly displayed and presented with gusto to indifferent visitors who had to then put up a zealous show of browsing through them.

Then came the digital age. Photography went digital and so did the storage. We were not limited by film rolls or albums anymore. Photographs that were once taken only on special occasions, for film rolls were numbered and getting them developed was expensive, and you could only have that many albums, became an everyday affair. Armed with digital cameras we can take any number of photographs, mobile cameras allow us to take our own pictures, the famous or infamous selfies. And it gets better, we can share your photographs and albums with the entire world, we are not limited to your reluctant friends and relatives. Facebooks and Insta are flooded with photographs and selfies of morning moods, evening moods, happy poses, sad pictures, holiday albums, wedding albums, feeling good albums, just random clicks and not to miss the airport check-ins, especially from those travelling international. Like it or not, we get a peek into our distant relatives’, neighbours’, colleagues’ or acquaintances’ lives the moment we log into any social media platform. We are expected to participate by giving them a thumbs up for we are now ‘digital animals,’ netizens who connect and correspond online.   

Posing for FB

Like most people of my generations, I enthusiastically embraced various inventions of the digital age. My Yashica camera gave way to Sony Coolpix. Soon high megapixel mobile camera made Coolpix redundant. My laptop, mobile phone, google drive & Picasa web album are flooded with photographs. Like most netizens of my generation, I started posting photographs on FB and counting likes, as if the number of likes was all that mattered.  After the initial excitement and being bombarded by all kinds of photographs on social media, I became more a restrained and less enthusiastic netizen. I keep photographs in my mobile and my google drives for my own personal viewing, to be shared with close friends and family on request only.

My problem is quite peculiar. Once I click a photograph or get a photograph via WhatsApp, I somehow can’t delete it. Even after the pictures of my phone are saved to a drive for some strange reason, I can’t empty my phone gallery. As a result, I am flooded with thousands of photos, sometimes similar, flooding my phone and drives. Recent pictures, old B&W photos that I may have clicked or received, similar pictures of me looking out of the window or posing in a sari, my nieces and nephews smiling, birds over flying over a lake, a fort. One side of my brain knows my mobile gallery needs to be emptied, similar shots deleted, the other vehemently argues what if I lose something valuable by deleting those pictures. Maybe it’s the hoarding mentality being carried forward to the digital age, making me a digital hoarder!

Digitally DisConnected!

It’s a bold new world! Everything is within our reach. We have thousands of friends and followers from across the globe thanks to FB, Instagram, snapchat and similar social media platforms. We can chat for hours with friends, classmates or family sitting in different corners of the world on WhatsApp groups. Courtesy free video calls the sense of alienation owing to distance or geographical barrier has been almost eliminated. I can talk to my cousin in Hong Kong or my best friend in France, see what they are wearing or comment on their new hairstyles whenever I want (different time zone is the only challenge that we need to work around). No more long waits for a letter from a far-off land, no more worrying over huge telephone bills. And that’s not all, be it a new job, a new home or a perfect match you can find it all online. With these amazing digital platforms, we can make the world dance to our tune!

We are so dazed by the sudden onslaught of digital technology that we sometimes don’t have time for a real face-to-face conversation. According to a survey by Common Sense, a children’s and media advocacy organization, texting is the favorite mode of communication for US teens. And the lure of Netflix, smartphones and social media is so strong that young Brits are losing their libido, according to a new study.  And here comes the real shocker – a Malaysian teen committing suicide after conducting an Instagram poll, an overwhelming 69% prompted her to choose death.

We often hear or read about young girls or women being cheated or raped by lovers they found online. Recently, news of an affluent woman in her 50s being murdered by a man who she befriended on a certain dating app startled us. Sometimes we also come across men who have been taken for a ride of these platforms. We shake our heads upon reading such news, sometimes pass judgemental remarks, “How could she be so stupid/desperate?” “Dating at this age? She deserved it.” But a closer look will reveal that the problem is far deeper!

Image courtesy actonline.org

Social media is great, but overuse of these platforms is leading to psychological complications and mental health issues. Posting too many pictures on social media is leading to Narcissism. Social media anxiety disorder is impacting our relations and mental health. We so often come across annoying friends or relatives who can’t finish a sentence without checking their phones. Sometimes people conduct an entire conversation with their eyes on the phone or on the screen of their tablet. Yes, loss of eye contact, that’s another victim of the digital age. Eye contact or facial expression that is the key to connecting with another person, understanding what she/he is actually trying to communicate. With over-dependence on social media we are losing out on these personal nuances, and unwittingly building a hi-tech virtual and sometimes illusionary world around us. We are constantly connected with our virtual friends; we have no time to talk to our real ones. Sitting in the same room or lying on the same bed next to each other we are more concerned about the likes and thumbs up on social media platforms. We keep posting pictures of perfect family vacations, romantic holidays without realizing that we haven’t had a proper conversation with our family members or partners in months. We are so busy maintaining the virtual charade that we often don’t realize that our real world may be falling apart.  And ironically enough, we don’t really care about friends and followers on Facebook or Instagram, it’s all about putting up a better show!

By the time we realize that, haunted by self-induced isolation and loneliness we again seek refuge in social media, forgetting social media platforms are only the means and not the end. Loneliness makes us vulnerable; loneliness can make us do strange things. No wonder there are schemers, pranksters and sometimes dangerous criminals lurking in our supposedly perfect virtual world, luring us with their false identities and promises.

While Jack Ma’s 669 has got thumbs down is social media for being lewd, I would say sex is the key to happy conjugal relationships. It’s time we wake up to the real – physical intimacy, eye contact, a real face-to-face conversation!