A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Late reply? Instant stress!
That’s the story of our lives ever since instant messaging monsters invaded our civilisation.columns Updated: Feb 24, 2018 17:30 IST
So, Sonal, I have a topic to suggest for your column,” said a usually reticent girl 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 while. 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 had overheard in a restaurant.
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 damn interesting. “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 when I’m online 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, 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 eye, instant replies on SMS 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 seven seconds of reading a message. Then there are 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 back-seat 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 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 happen to get all worked up about how the other person has not responded instantly to your message, consider this:
1) By getting constantly upset that your boyfriend or girlfriend 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 won’t make him come closer to you, it’ll make him Google ways to hide his online status from you.
3) Hiding his or her online status just to maintain peace in the relationship is actually making them lie to you, something that they 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. Remember that the definition of love got written ages before human beings learned to even spell technology. Focus on 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 blocking a contact for a few minutes and then unblocking them, you can effectively hide the ‘last seen’ time-stamp from Whatsapp. Don’t laugh! No one told her that you can just deactivate it in the ‘settings’ menu. Anyway, mail her at sonal.kalra@ hindustantimes.com, facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra
First Published: Feb 24, 2018 17:27 IST