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!