So, Sonal, I have a topic to suggest for your column,” said a usually reticent Divya in my team. “The other day I sent you a message asking if I could report a little late for work,” she went on. “And you didn’t reply for a few minutes. In those few minutes, I was horribly stressed that you are upset about something.”
‘Arrey, but I was busy with something and didn’t see your message immediately,’ I said. “Yeah, I know. But it does lead to tremendous stress if the boss doesn’t reply instantly,” she said. I joked with her about how she’s making me feel like a guilty boyfriend. And then I recalled a conversation I’d overheard in a restaurant just a day before.
Would you stop judging me already? I don’t eavesdrop, the guys were too loud. Well, okay. I eavesdropped. But suno toh sahi, it was a damn interesting conversation.
“Jaan le rakhi hai yaar Richa ne,” said one guy to his friend. “I love her and all that. But she’s constantly on my case if I’m not available online 24X7. She keeps a track of my last seen time on Whatsapp and gives me such grief if I’ve been online otherwise but haven’t responded to her message yet.” “Girls are like that only,” replied his genius friend, shaking his head.
Well, I don’t know if girls are like that, but technology surely is like that these days. Overwhelming, and overbearing. Before the instant messaging monsters invaded our civilisation, we were okay with not hearing from our loved ones all through the day. But in a bid to outdo each other, telecom companies have taken slogans like ‘stay connected’ too literally, and sadly so have we.
In the day and age when instant noodles and pre-mixed coffee is called a meal without blinking an eyelid, instant replies on SMSs, BBMs or Whatsapp have also become a measure of how much you care for the person on the other end.
And ironically it has become so justified to feel upset about why someone did not respond to our message immediately that the other person is left with no choice but to act guilty and defensive, without realising that there is no such rule in life that says you don’t care for the sender if you do not respond within 7 seconds of reading a message. Then there are BBM or Whatsapp groups where copy pasted jokes arrive from all directions at the speed of missiles and everyone in the group is supposed to ‘lol’ well in time to be safely considered a social animal.
In some ways, this stress of always being available also manifests itself in the way we respond to phone calls. You could have sat down to eat a meal, which by the way, still remains the primary thing you are living and working so hard for, and the phone rings. Immediately, the meal takes a backseat and you either get up to take a call or now since cell phones are almost appended to our bodies like an extended limb, you just take the call there and then.
If you don’t and there is an emotional loved one on the other side, your entire day can go in making amends. There is a colleague who starts most of his conversations with me by complaining about how I didn’t take his call the last time. Once I tried telling him politely that till the day I spend on buying a cell phone and pay its monthly bills, it’s I who will decide when to pick up a call, not the caller. He took truck loads of offence but thankfully the grumbling ceased for a while.
My point is simple. Technology is a facilitator, not the master of our life. If the state of our relationships is going to be dictated by the stress of how much we are making use of that technology, then we’ll only end up tying ourselves in knots. If you are one of those who happens to get all worked up about how your friend has not responded instantly to your message, consider this:
1. By getting constantly upset that your boyfriend isn’t responding to your messages at the speed of light, you are not showing love, you are showing insecurity.
2. Frequent display of insecurity will not make him come closer to you, it’ll make him Google for ways to hide his online status from you.
3. Hiding his online status just to maintain peace in the relationship is actually making him lie to you, something that he wouldn’t want to do if you were not this hyper about instant responses.
4. Lying in a relationship weakens its very foundation, further fuelling insecurity.
5. Finally, there is no proof to support the notion that relationships based on two people constantly connected to each other are stronger than those where each person gets space to breathe.
On the contrary, the latter may just be stronger since there’s no stress to lie or keep defending oneself.
Here’s some unsolicited gyan for Richa, jisne jaan le rakhi hai. Do remember that the definition of love got written ages before human beings learned to even spell technology. Don’t suddenly make advancements in technology the basis for a thing whose basis can only be trust, and nothing else. The day your boyfriend gets the confidence to say ‘I was chilling out with friends’ rather than saying, the phone was in the pocket and I didn’t hear the beep, he’d be in a much secure space in the relationship. And the day you learn to chill out with your own friends without being under the stress of checking your phone every second for his reply, you’d be in bliss too. Try toh karo.
Sonal Kalra has discovered that by simply blocking a contact for a few minutes and then unblocking them, you can effectively hide the ‘last seen’ time-stamp from whatsapp.
Also if you read a message on BBM and without touching the trackball or pressing any key you press the red, call disconnect key, you can read a message without the dreaded, R, appearing next to it.
Chalo, kuchh toh kaam ka seekha aaj.