Millennium Post

Love in the time of Internet

How is love in the time of internet? And smartphones? Is it any different from the time when parents of the internet generation had been courting? India then was technologically living in the times of Alexander Graham Bell. There used to be long queues for telephone lines. Even if one had a connection, reaching even the next door neighbor used to be a problem, forget about long distance calls. The now-forgotten postman used to be the link between two hearts. Can today’s generation even think of the tough time their parents had?

But courtship then was cheaper. At least it was in Kolkata where lovelorn couples were not treated with guns and other ammunitions like in the national capital. Coffee in Kolkata’s famous College Street Coffee House used to be just 60 paise. Movie tickets were much more affordable – one could use pocket money rationed by stingy parents. Sending letters for changing or scheduling appointments were not always practicable. One had to be particular about meeting points and time. This might seem inconvenient today but perhaps was good for inculcating disciplined responsibility between the two young hearts.

Those were the days of parents who believed in discipline. One had to sneak in a date within the given time frame. Library hours were effective. Those were the days before photocopying or e-books. One had to necessarily visit libraries to study. In library they could sit silently and read for hours together.

Now come back to the age of technology. Children enjoy being with less intrusive, liberal parents. Most are not in a hurry to get married at the first opportunity and banish strict disciplinarian parents from their lives. Romance in school or college is just like sampling. Childhood heartthrob is a word in a dictionary now. There is no compulsion. One can easily date seamlessly with or without being in close proximity.

Courtship has ended lamented Alex Williams in the New York Times. Alex is wrong. Courtship has evolved according to the age. Gone are the days of pride and prejudice of Elizabeth and Darcy. Today’s dance demands no step. Yes there is ‘no dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone,’ but how is it wrong if young persons today ‘rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other ‘non-dates’…’

What is more, advances in technology have opened up new opportunities often enough solving the headaches of parents. Young people post their resumes on websites, court on the net, meet briefly and choose their partners. One likes it or not dating has turned simpler. Only there is a change in the gender roles – girls today are less coy. And why not so? Many of them did better than the target paramour in studies, have finer language skill and earn more, at least no less.A more important question however is whether celebration of love has taken a backseat due to ease in dating now? Unlikely. Valentine’s Day is now a most sought-after event. Even in India the land where courtship was supposed to be only after one was married. One generation ago only students of English literature were aware of the day. India was a closed market known for shortages. There was no Chinese gift items to exchange. Flowers were mostly used for worship and on rare occasions for decoration. 14 February was just another day on the calendar for all, even for the media.

Love and the market have matured since then. Today 14 February is important enough for India’s oldest Apex Chamber of Commerce Assocham to release a survey on what would be the money spent on the day? How will the retailers fare? Like in the USA Assocham linked the weak consumer sentiment and predicted that spending on the Valentine’s Day would not help big-ticket items like jewellery, a romantic getaway or an expensive designer outfit.

What will change hands? According Assocham, while traditional items like flowers, chocolates, cosmetics and perfumes are on the top of the Valentine’s Day gift list for couples, electronic goods like low-cost tablets, smart phones, ipods and digital cameras also hog the list of desirable gifts. With a tight budget of Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,500 what else can the young buy? An interesting point to note is that books are no longer an item for gift. But money spent is an issue of the economy. Love is supposed to be blind at least of economy. Valentine’s Day is supposed to tear the purse strings of the lovelorn. With credit cards aplenty and ease of shopping on line the economy may take a backseat, at least for a day. In the days of easy romance one cannot afford to be frugal. This applies, sadly, more to the male of the species than the females. This is yet another dramatic departure of love in the age of internet.

The author is a communication professional

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