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Faceless communication

 | May 26, 2012

It is always more difficult to face a person and speak your mind. It is that much easier through the virtual world.

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The other day, I heard two young people, friends in all probability, talking to each other. They were loud, and there was no way I could not have not heard them. One was shocked when the other said that he was not on Facebook!

Somehow, social sites, like Facebook, and e-mail have completely robbed the romance of a good face-to-face chat. Nobody even wants to telephone a friend. Send me an e-mail or text me is the common request even among the best of friends.

It was interesting to read a report in The Economist which clearly suggests that people are inventing more and more ways to communicate in a faceless fashion. Here is the story and one example.

“South Koreans take romance seriously. Lovers are expected to swap sweet nothings many times a day and woe betide the clod who forgets a 100-day anniversary. Some pairs dress in couple style, in the same garish red sweater and blue jeans combo, for instance. Small wonder that a Korean firm has created a social network for couples.

“The app is called Between. It creates a private space for two people, in which they can share photographs and special memories, chat in real time and exchange any number of cute emoticons – smiley faces, winks, hearts and so on. Though revolting to singles, Between is a hit. Since its launch in November, more than 560,000 Koreans have fallen for it”.

In India too, men and women fatigued by hours of commuting and long office stays (sometimes six days a week) find it simpler to “talk” to friends and lovers through mobile texting, social sites and emoticons.

There is one for every emotion – you are sad, select an emoticon and press “send”. You are happy, there is another. You have a question, you are angry or you are feeling romantic — there is an emoticon available for just about everything.

So the person on the other side does not actually see you smile or weep, but only those “cute” images that flash across your mobile phone screen. But for those who are outside this circle of social sites and mobile texting, all these faceless conservations can be irking.

Cinemas are one place where mobile phone use is awfully disturbing. Often, viewers are not viewing what is unfolding on the big screen, but are glued to the mini windows on their hand-held gadgets. Such is the compulsiveness of this obsession.

There have been debates on why people chose to hide behind texts and telephones. For one, it gives a certain anonymity that helps a man or a woman to get bolder. It is always more difficult to face a person and speak your mind. It is that much easier through the virtual world.

I am told many romances might not have taken off had it not been for the social sites and telephone texting. It is simpler, less complicated, and calls for far less courage to say “I love you” through a short message than walk up to a person and declare this!

In India, as in the rest of the world, social sites and short messages may be helping the weak- kneed person, but it is, on the other hand, creating a dangerously impersonal world where every other man or woman is being reduced to a name. Sometimes, a fancy symbol.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected] He is an FMT columnist.


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