I realised I only had three friends in Mumbai when I had to stop texting people. The ‘send' SMS facility on my phone had stopped working but the ‘receive' part had remained functional. So, although I was initially annoyed, I soon found it fascinating to observe who called me and who SMS-ed, and what this told me about them.
I discovered that most people, most of the time, just send SMSes, especially when they had something difficult to say, even though it would have been far better to phone.
I also discovered that texting was creating a huge fantasy world for me of so-called friendships with various people, many of whom I had nothing in common with.
For example, a fellow journalist who was supposed to be meeting me to review a club, texted me at 9 p m : "Sorry I won't make it. I'm 90 kms out of Mumbai and the trains only go every four hours. Got held up on a story." That was it. I, meanwhile, was sitting in a five star hotel bar, pretending to the waiters that I had not been stood up.
Two days later, I had two friends lined up to go to a gig with. At 5 p m, two texts arrived in my inbox almost simultaneously - "Sorry we can't come," each one said, citing different reasons. Receiving this kind of news by text is offensive and I would have respected them more if they had called me up. Quasi relationship I had also, until then, been in, what I thought was a relationship with a man. But once my texting function was disabled, I realised it had been a mere ‘text message' relationship. Despite both of us living in Mumbai, we had met twice in three months and were sending each other texts every day.
Once I could no longer text him, I suddenly realised that not only were we not in a relationship, but that we hardly knew each other. We then had one phone call, full of awkward silences and it dawned on me that texting had created a false illusion.
Texting does indeed put you in a false Facebook-style world where you develop fake relationships. Many have lost the ability to have real conversations and their lives are devoid of human interaction and love. I sent an email to an expat guy I had met in a bar. In the email, I explained I couldn't text because my phone was broken, so I was emailing him to say "Hi," instead.
"No sms - that is strange and rough. I text so much I have lost the ability to converse with people," he wrote back, as if that was perfectly normal. It was rather nerve-wracking, to call up everyone, when previously I would have texted. Phone manners What I wasn't prepared for was how rude many are when you call them. "Can I call you back?" "I'm in a meeting" or "I'm at the movies," were the most common replies. They may think they are communicating to me how busy they are.
But all they are communicating is their lack manners and the fact that they cannot cope with their own daily stresses.
Once I was interviewing a successful businessman in Mumbai. During our interview, every time his mobile rang, he sounded genuinely pleased to hear from the caller. I was impressed. That's the way I want to be from now on. That's also the reason why he's successful, I mused.
Soon I realised that I had just three friends. They were the ones who regularly phoned me and never texted, and who, when I called, sounded pleased to hear from me. When we spoke on the phone, there were no awkward silences and the conversation flowed. That was because we had not relied on texts.
So stop texting for a month. It's a great way to filter out the trash and work out who your real friends are.