“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..”
While reading these lines from one of my favorite classics ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, my thoughts took a detour, and before I could lose my thoughts, I jotted down few conversations that I have had during my visit to India. Disclaimer, it’s not about the cultures of the west and the east, it’s an experience which seems like a déjà vu, and could hold true for any location in the world.
Scene 1: Friends Forever?!
Friend: Are you on WhatsApp?!
Friend: What?! Why?! Is everything alright? But you would be coming on WhatsApp right?
Me: Not Sure
Friend: Kya Yaar! It would be so much fun, you know that classmate (to whom we never spoke, when in college) is the Admin of our college WhatsApp group, then we have that hostel wing mate (whose presence we never acknowledged back then) is in our WhatsApp group, and so on so forth.
Very soon the elevator pitch, to convince you to join the WhatsApp group, turns into a farewell speech. Okay! Keep in touch, nice meeting you.
By now, I would have been labelled as primitive, anti-social, or maybe I have something to hide.
Scene 2: The Family Saga
Now this is a tricky one, as here the connections are established, on the basis of blood. You would meet these faces in some or the other family functions.
Relative: Where have you been? No news (read: not able to stalk you on social media)
Me: I did call you last month
Relative: Yeah! But no instant access (Read: I am not able to send you random photos, videos and quotes)
Me: We can always text each other, or email (I am very prompt in my response)
Relative: Okay, what was your contact number?
Similar conversations I have had with different circles of my acquaintances, friends, cousins, colleagues etc.
One thing that is common in all those conversations is WhatsApp. If you are not part of WhatsApp, it seems as if you are not alive. My issue is not with WhatsApp, but the thinking that has developed around it. As if a new kind of sensory organ has developed in the WhatsApp users, who can connect with you only if they can add you on WhatsApp. Once you are part of their WhatsApp, you are like the appendix (vestigial body part), which they remember only in case of emergency. The emergency in case of WhatsApp user should be redefined: It could be an act where in a WhatsApp user has nobody to ping, or when they have nobody to share the sweet nothings with, till the time their most important person is available again to chat, or when their life on those candy Crush Sagas are back.
By now, I am sure, most of you would have listed all the benefits of WhatsApp, and how it has empowered each user, and also helped in solving crisis. It’s not that the writer is unaware of the impact of WhatsApp in empowering its each user. However, I fail to understand is –
How come being part of those friends and family groups the only way to stay connected?
Why the calls within minutes turn into ‘aur bata’, ‘hmmm’, ‘haan’, and mostly one sided conversation?
Whereas, a comment, or text, has all the fondness and affection of the world.
This does not mean, that I would dwell in the past when having a landline was a privilege, or show lack of faith in the future generation. Each generation is smart and knows what works the best for them.
What amuses me the most is that, it’s not the children of today, but the landline generation, Nokia mobile generation, the telegram generation are the ones who would reply to your What’s UP, only if you have WhatsApp!