I was originally going to write this blog for Floh, and I’ve been thinking about it/mulling over it for a while. And suddenly, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to churn it out here for all you loyal readers.
I think I’ve enjoyed good conversations with boys ever since I was a teenager. In fact, in my late teens and early twenties, my ‘boy friends’ often dubbed me as ‘one of the dudes’. I could talk to them about movies, computers, technology, ‘girls’, travelling, everything under the sun, except cricket (I just can’t wrap my head around it despite several attempts).
I remember the day I acquired a cellphone. It was 2001, an evening in November, the 21st, to be precise, 4 days before my 13th birthday (?). I was not new to cellphones, I just hadn’t had my own before. That fateful night, without having activated the ‘9 to 9 scheme (Indian millennials know what I’m referring to)’, I had spent 6 hours of the night on the phone. Of course, the bill that ensued at the end of the month, ensured my postpaid connection be cut off for years to come, allowing me a reasonably allocated prepaid account.
If one thing hasn’t changed since I was 13, it’s the fact that I. Love. Talking. On The Phone.
Once the initial personal contact has been established with a stranger and I know they’re not an alien, I can talk to them for hours on the phone. In fact, just yesterday, a Floh member privately messaged me on Facebook in response to a request I had put out for a feature story. I, immediately declared that I was more of a ‘talker than texter’, gave him my phone number, and got on a call with him to discuss his experience. The conversation lasted well over an hour and was only terminated because my cellphone battery died. (The only component of technological advancement that hasn’t kept up with us: darned battery life.)
As him and I discussed, people have now become averse to answering phone calls. Calls are regularly screened, responded to with a text message within seconds or minutes, asking the reason for the phone call. Almost like, even with someone you know, it ain’t possible to just dial their number and expect them to, wait for it, answer the call. Holy moly! That’s not how it works. As observed by this gentleman, even with your closest friends, you have to make an appointment for a phone call. You first ‘text’ asking when the other person is free and attempt to remember and call them at the said time.
I believe the biggest contributor to texting taking over our lives is a little instant messaging app known as WhatsApp! This messenger has brought about a wave of change in how we communicate with other people of the same planet.
From immediate family groups, to college buddies, to love interests, everybody is a WhatsApp favourite. With the latest update, you could now share documents via Google Drive, iCloud or Dropbox. This ensures you never need to TALK to another person. Just texting will suffice. Take my word for it. It’s the new matrimonial gateway. Parents and mediators are going to exchange ‘profiles (a modest word for biodata)’ of their respective candidates via WhatsApp! Anyway, WhatsApp invitations to important life events/celebrations are the norm. This update just takes it a step further.
I can’t even begin to recount how many new relationships have been formed and lost their chance at being formed thanks to WhatsApp texts. Here’s the new drill. You use a dating app/website/avenue to express your interest in a potential suitor. Once the suitor reciprocates the interest, you ‘chat’ in the app but lag issues and outdated technology soon come in the way. So, you exchange phone numbers, only to ‘add each other on WhatsApp’ and continue texting. Even if the conversation is going great, which it usually does for many, it never occurs to either person to pick up the phone, call and have a conversation.
Some, like me, albeit writers, tire of texting after a while. And if the opposite person refuses to talk on the phone or meet and have a conversation, the exchange dies a natural death. Neither of the parties wants to budge on how they want to take it ahead. In fact, some people, I am told, have been delusional enough to believe they were in relationships entirely based on texting. These two people hadn’t spoken on the phone even once, let alone met each other. But they were in what could be known as a ‘textual relationship’. Absolutely bizarre, isn’t it? One of my new-found friends claims he’s paranoid of talking to someone he’s been texting with and that paranoia has worsened over time. He’s perfectly normal at texting and meeting the interested person, but talking on the phone is something he can’t get himself to do anymore. It just amazes me that this is the direction our life is headed in!
And to think, we used spend so much money on ‘trunk calls’ back in the day to hear the voice of our loved ones, whom we were separated from geographically.
I have another theory to this. If you’ve known someone long enough, you recognise their voice, their tone, their verbal cues, how they’re going to say certain things, the emotions behind the words, etc. And certain conversations are too overwhelming to be had face-to-face. That’s when people my age used to resort to phone calls. It was intimate but not in your face. Especially if you were crying, breaking bad news or just shy.
I don’t think kids today understand this. They pick up more on cues from texting. They only understand urban slang and emojis. Who needs a real passionate kiss when you have the :*) and who needs to laugh when you have the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji at your perusal? A HuffPo article talks about the most popular emojis of 2015 as unveiled by Twitter.
When love can be expressed with a red heart (says the person who has a red heart tattoo on her wrist) or a beating pink heart, why bother with actual spoken words?
I’ve read a couple of articles (this one sent by a friend) and a book titled ‘Unfriending My Ex: Confessions Of A Social Media Addict (a must-read for anyone interested in this subject) and they both talk about the ease with which you can hide behind a text and reject someone. Both of them even go to the extent of saying it’s a lesser anxiety-inducing exercise.
So, I have a question for you folks:
And finally, I would like to end by pointing out that there’s something to be said about those long, winding phone conversations where words are thought out in the head before they tumble out. And not covered with asterisks in texts. Give both modes of communication a fair try before you decide to exclusively settle for one. And if you could use initial texting as a pathway to future phone conversations and eventual meetings, nothing like it.