WhatsApp with romance?

Tags: Knowledge

As though trying to decipher the intentions of the other sex wasn’t hard enough, technology has introduced rules that change faster than hashtags

Everyone knows that a wink typed at the end of a message isn’t just a wink. It is a complex code signalling anything from ‘I might not mean that’ to ‘I am horny’.

As though trying to decipher the intentions of the other sex wasn’t hard enough without interference of technology, the dating-mating scene today has taken on forms that even Jan Koum (or Neeraj Arora if you want to be patriotic) would not have foreseen, with unwritten rules being changed faster than hashtags at the end of a tweet.

When Whatspp had an outage for about two hours, shortly after being bought by Facebook, the whole internet went berserk with unabashed declarations such as ‘I didn’t block you darling, whatsapp is down’ popping up as status messages even on profiles of people who weren’t 20-something and whose relationship statuses read ‘It’s complicated’.

In an age where technology has integrated seamlessly into every aspect of our life, including romance and the way we connect with each other, calling up someone, which a couple of years ago would have been normal if a guy wanted to ask a girl out, would today be considered being too pushy. You don’t call, you ping.

And there are rules for pinging too, depending on the length of time you have known the person. If you do not know them at all, you first stalk them on Facebook, studying their life, through DPs posted over the years, (display pictures for the uninitiated), movies liked, books read (or not read) and the kind of music that makes them tick (or makes you want to run in the opposite direction. Oh wait — shouldn’t it be ‘log out’?).

You then ‘approach’ them by casually ‘liking’ a public post they made. Do not make the mistake of commenting yet, as you might be seen as being ‘too forward’. And horror of horrors, if you have ‘liked’ something that they posted more than three years ago, your online stalking would be exposed and you can be certain you will be relegated to the ‘creep category’, blocked and ignored, even before you have had a virtual chance to say a hi. So take your time and check the date of posting, before hitting the ‘like’.

Now you wait for them to ‘like’ back your post. Waiting for that ‘like’ has replaced the earlier ‘waiting for the phone to ring’. Once the initial hesitant, carefully-chosen ‘likes’ are exchanged with a potential partner, depending on how fast you want the relationship to move, you like some more pictures, status messages or comments. Only when this ritual is cleared, do you proceed to the next step, which is to drop a message. (Note, it’s only a message, not an email).

If the other person isn’t on your friend list yet, there is a waiting period for that too, as it lands in the ‘other folder’. If the person is equally interested in you and hence scans the ‘other folder’, reads your carefully constructed message positioned to sound casual- yet -interested and replies (hooray!), it is a clear signal for you to send a friend request. If accepted, do not rejoice yet, for this is merely a virtual foot in the virtual door of a very complicated virtual relationship that may or may not flourish.

Presuming that all the above parameters are tick-marked with precision of a math teacher grading a particularly hard test-paper, you meet for a first date. You rack your brains as to what to talk about, as you already know the music they like, the books they read (or didn’t) and the movies they watched.

What earlier was ‘ice-breaking small talk’ on a first date, will now expose you as an ignoramus who doesn’t know to use social media or isn’t tech-savvy if you ask the usual ‘let’s-get-to-know-each-other-better’ kind of questions, the kind that people used to ask on a first date. A better bet would be ‘Oh, it feels like I already know you so well,’ which would not be far from truth, if you have done your homework, of studying the DPs, likes, comments and of course, stealthy online stalking.

After this first date comes the wait. Oh, the agony of a wait for a reply to a ping! If you want to torture a person, a guaranteed way would be to not answer their pings for at least a day.

If the person still holds your interest after 24 hours, congratulations — you have just accomplished a mammoth leap defeating the virtual world, with a baby step into a real relationship.

But if the ping doesn’t come, never mind. There are more than 50 major social networking sites, waiting to ask you ‘what’s on your mind’.

(Preeti Shenoy is the author of five bestselling novels, the latest being The One You Cannot Have)

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