Virtual Insanity (A Jamiroquai Reprise) …

I’m a relatively young woman- relative to my mother’s generation – and I’ve always found it difficult to date. I think that the problem might be me. My problem is that I dive – headfirst – into a ‘thing’ with a love interest. I’m an artist, so also a little sensitive (read crazy). I talk, want to share what I think, and hope that potential abuti bae will, too. You know – I like ‘getting into a groove’ with someone.

But that’s not the way things work, anymore, it seems. It’s mandatory, I’ve found, for people to rather create an air of mystery, a non-connection, an aura of unavailability – so as not to appear too invested in a relationship with a potential love interest. Heart on sleeve is too bloody an MO.

I’ve realized that this is the general way that things go:

  1. You meet someone, have a drink, a laugh, a spark
  2. You exchange FB, Twitter, Instagram, BBM and phone number information
  3. The next few days is full of texts, and the use of the other platforms, until you ‘settle’ into the one that suits you both (probably one that has a ‘seen’ or ‘blue ticks’ function, so that you know when you’re being ignored)
  4. You make plans to link up over this selected platform
  5. You have drinks, laugh, connect
  6. Continue as before, except now, it’s real when the blue ticks get ignored
  7. Then you meet someone else, and repeat options 1 through 5. NB: You should not by any means communicate with two/ three different love interests over the same platform- keep them separate. If you’re BBMing one, rather FB message the other to avoid any ‘crossovers’- or being held accountable for ‘seen at 14:42, last seen 2m’- with an unread message in the inbox

The complexities of the dating scene, these days, is completely mind- boggling- particularly because we each have our own unique way of courting and interacting with people. Can a digital connection be a real one? Online dating sites and apps like Tinder have a formula for facilitating ‘interaction/ attraction’ by swiping left or right. I was listening to a handful of Tinderites, the other night, and they called it ‘the hook up app’- so it’s not the place to go for a lasting romantic connection, apparently. That said, I have seen it (with my own eyes, on YouTube)- that online dating can result in love, marriage, families. So… what is it? That ineffable ‘thing’ that draws people together and keeps them there- together, I mean?

It’s as though social media allows us to hide behind clever puns and one word answers- it’s too much effort to type about one’s musings about the universe, or their impressions of their Chinua Achebe book, so an ‘I’m good, thanks’ will have to do. And in that, there isn’t really connection. Connectivity, yes. Connection, not really… Or no?

I have been thinking about this since I found a plastic bag full of letters. Here is some background: I was digging through the garage at my parents’ house, and happened upon a faded, white plastic bag. It was full of paper. I know that we can keep things, in our house, so I almost ignored it. But something drew me in, and I opened it up. Inside I found what can only be described as the precursor to my existence. They were letters between my parents, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while they were courting.

What struck me immediately (okay, after the worn, fragile paper, beautiful handwriting and antique stamps), was the time that elapsed between the letters. They were in a long distance relationship in their early 20s, and had to wait at least 2 weeks before hearing from each other. No blue ticks, just waiting, and perhaps hoping that the other would respond. No spying on the profiles of people who ‘liked’ or commented on a status, or responded to a tweet. No late night texts, no picture messages or video Whatsapps. Just writing about their lives. They penned the mundane; sharing the goings on and changes in their families; a marriage, a funeral here, a change of university course there. It was all PG. No butt pics, dick pics or #Modipane (an infamous sex tape that went viral on social media and mobile in Botswana).

But here’s the thing: relationships are not hard and fast, cast in stone. There are blogs upon blogs and ‘scientific’ research about how to nurture and maintain a successful relationship, but is there like, a ‘thing’ that guarantees that you will have a blissful two year courting period and 52 year marriage? I don’t think so.

Definitely not in a world where we:

  1. Wait for ‘blue ticks’
  2. Stalk the people that ‘like’ our love interest’s status
  3. Don’t talk about our lives, the things that light a spark in our souls
  4. Refuse to share moments of loss and happiness- without tagging the 15 other people who might have known about it (well, they do, now!)
  5. Don’t really communicate
  6. Don’t really connect

Our world is populated with LOLs, #MCMs, #WCWs and emoticons. Truncated thoughts, non- words, non- emotions. We’re so safe behind our screens. How much colour can populate a world of black and white (and blue and green)? I think our computers and phones, as much as they facilitate linking up with others, also create a barrier to real connection, sometimes. Like we’re ‘liking’ and inboxing and Whatsapping and reblogging, but not really connecting. It’s virtually insane.

Writer: Ngozi Chukura