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).  

Love, Courtship, Dating, Tinder and more…

Love! The endearing emotion that survived centuries and generations. Once upon a time, men lost their kingdoms for love, forfeited their crown to be with the woman they loved. Battles were fought, cities were burnt down, lovers buried alive, yet love emerged triumphant! We embraced love, wooed our beloved, courted love, sometimes even knowing that it was doomed. So many beautiful poems and pieces of literature revolve around love and unrequited love.

As we move into the great 2020s, we continue to love and lose, we continue to woo. A lot however has changed with technology, with the world moving digital. Be it love or dating (modern equivalent to courtship), it has moved online. Instead of kingdoms and battles, young people often lose money to online frauds preying on love or loneliness of the generation now. First there were matrimonial sites, then came the dating apps which are now often referred to as ‘hook-up apps’. Technology is adding a new edge to these apps every day. So has love seized to exist, maybe it has in the way we once imagined it to be…?

I have once used these apps myself and was fortunate enough to meet somebody wonderful. But a lot has changed since then I am told. Stories of online dating that I hear about from my younger colleagues piqued my curiosity. 

I am talking to my 20-year-old colleague Riti Chakraborty on her experiences and views on love and dating.

  1. Why online? Don’t you meet young people offline?

It is not about being online. I like meeting new people in whichever way possible. Online dating sites streamline the whole process of meeting since I don’t go out often and socialise with other people, I don’t have the time.

  • Which are the popular dating apps now?

There are a lot of them. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Happn, OK cupid and the list goes on. My personal favourite is Hinge. Since it involves an extensive process of putting down prompts to simplify meeting new people, there is a lot of information available and it becomes easier to figure out various conversation starters.

  • Tell me about your experiences

I have had mixed experiences. I had not started online dating till a year back. In the beginning I had a hard time letting myself go and meet random, new people. However, some of the guys I had talked to, have remained friends till date. It got easier with time and I personally feel it has added to my self-confidence. Meeting new people, getting to know them has had an effect on me as a person and I feel I can talk easily to new people now.

  • I have heard about phrases like cat fishing and ghosting frequent associated with online dating. What do they really mean? Have you ever had such experience?

Online dating comes with its own set of random experiences. I have been ghosted, catfished, I have stood up boys, there is a lot to talk about. The one time I was catfished, I was supposed to meet a really cute guy and imagine my horror when a random person who looks vaguely like the boy I had been talking to, showed up! He couldn’t even speak proper English and was showing off his BMW for no reason. I stayed on for the first 15 minutes and had to put my perfectly healthy mother in the hospital (virtually) in front of him in order to get out of this debacle! It was a horrible end to my weekend.

  • Do you think it’s possible to find someone you want to be with through these sites?

I think anything can happen. People change all the time. I feel it is possible to meet someone I would want to be with through online dating. My last relationship started out on Instagram, so I can’t complain!

  • Sometimes online dating/chatting/sexting continue for months online. People are not interested in connecting offline. Why does that happen?

I honestly don’t know. It could be a number of things. Maybe they are insecure, or maybe they don’t want a physical relationship. It sounds absurd but many relationships also thrive virtually! I am not one of them, but I feel people who are not keen on meeting up physically just want someone to be there for them emotionally or mentally, and that’s the extent of their virtual relationship.

  • Your views on love and relationship.

I think the moment you declare ‘I have stopped looking for Love, I have stopped believing in Love, I do not want to be with anyone for a prolonged period of time’, love finds you. I have heard the same story from a number of my friends. The moment they stopped looking for love, they found someone worthwhile. On the other hand, relationships have become extremely flexible. There are polyamorous people who have multiple relationships at the same time, there are open relationships, there is the old school relationship, there are virtual relationships, relationships with 3 people at the same time, and so on and so forth. I think people just want their peace of mind, be it with one person or a few. The saying that ‘you cannot love 2 people at the same time’ is rapidly changing. My generation is more self-aware, more confident about themselves at the same time extremely dependent on other people. My own beliefs have changed over time, from being a one-man woman, to only wanting to date exclusively, to only talking and having fun with random people, I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I have not pinned my hopes down for a fairy-tale anymore.

  • Any advice, or word of caution for people seeking to date online

One should be extremely cautious of the people they talk to. Do as much background research as possible and check all their social media info. It becomes easy to spot catfishers and fake accounts once you get the hang of it. They have a certain way of talking, certain pictures etc that can be spotted with a little attention to detail. Online dating is fun and all but it can be a bit dangerous too. So a little caution and safety nets should always be at hand.

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!

When love swipes right!

Tanya got off the car and rushed towards the coffee shop. It was drizzling, winter rains, she was walking as fast as she could to avoid getting drenched. When she reached the covered porch she stopped, took a breath and tried to calm herself. “Maybe I should have cancelled this”, she thought. “It’ll take me ages to drive back in the rains, and all this for a Tinder date.” She ran her fingers through her hair and smoothed her jacket and started walking slowly towards the coffee shop.

love swipes

Confident, happy and single Tanya logged on to Tinder sometime back, maybe out of curiosity, maybe out of loneliness, maybe it was a bit of both. She has been in love before, has broken her heart, she still believes in love and could be hopelessly romantic at times. Though her romantic quests didn’t go the way she had hoped, Tanya was a positive and a happy woman, doing well in her job, popular with her friends. She had pushed back all thoughts of love for a while and seemed to be doing a good job of it. Then, one Sunday afternoon, while flipping through TV channels to kill time, she was suddenly gripped by loneliness and boredom. Her friends, most of whom are married, were caught up with their family or in some other errand. “Maybe I should try Tinder,” she thought, “who knows maybe there are interesting men out there.”

She downloaded Tinder on a whim and started swiping right and left. To her surprise, she matched with every man she fancied, and all of whom seemed eager to meet her and take things forward. The initial response was overwhelming and exhilarating, ‘maybe I will meet someone nice here,’ she thought. She was not unattractive she knew, but the men out there made her feel like a beauty queen. Her optimism, however, was short lived, when most of her tinder matches seemed to be only interested in sex or one-night stands. Some of them were married as well, looking for ‘a true friend.’  “I was really naïve,” she thought “to think dating still meant coffee, good conversations and sweet romance.  Holding hands and walking in the moonlit nights, like college times.”

As she was about to delete the Tinder app, the message notification blinked, “How about coffee on Monday?”  asked an almost forgotten Tinder match, Abir. “Well one coffee shouldn’t hurt,” thought Tanya. “Fine, let’s meet at 7,” she wrote.

When Tanya stepped out of office that Monday evening it was drizzling, and she had a good mind to call off her Tinder date. “It’s too late for that now, it would be rude,” she thought, as she drove to meet Abir on a rainy December night.

As Tanya, walked towards the coffee shop, she found Abir waiting for her outside, he came forward and shook her hands warmly. By the time they sat down they were already talking, like they have known each other for a while. They talked endlessly for hours, till Tanya realized it was late and she had to get back home. Traffic was crazy on the way back, but she didn’t mind. There was something about Abir that was so different from the all the men who cross her path, on Tinder or otherwise. He was sweet, charming, polite, a little shy and seemed genuinely interested in knowing her.

So, they kept meeting and talking and before they knew they were dating. “Watch out,” her friends warned, “not so fast. You met him on Tinder, at best he’s looking for a casual fling.” Tanya took a step back only to realize that they were both drawn to each other hopelessly and there was no looking back. Neither Tanya nor Abir had thought that they would find something so beautiful on Tinder, so they plunged right into it – into a journey of love, friendship and companionship!