“Just because I’m not alone, doesn’t mean I’m not lonely”…
That was on the Hallmark card I sent to my “girlfriend” back in School, a girl I just met twice, but somehow, we were a “couple”… I remember that line because I really loved it. Those were the days when we used to write letters on actual paper and put stamps on the envelope and then wait everyday for the mailman to see if she replied or not…
20 years later, she’s probably settled down now with a husband and three kids. But that line kinda made me think a lot. Are we really lonely in today’s world?
The other day, I went with three of my friends to our favorite watering hole at Bandra – Banana Bar. While I was out smoking at the terrace, our regular waiter came up to me and asked, “Sir, can I ask you something?” and I of course said yes. “Sir, the four of you are having such a great time, laughing and all, but you’re all just looking at your phones… it looks very funny from here!” Which made me realize… yes… it must be funny for somebody observing us, and unfortunately, that is how most of us are today.
We can update our facebook or twitter statuses and upload pictures and videos from almost anywhere now… keep in touch with old friends while we are with a different group of friends. Share what we are eating with friends or family on facebook, pinterest, instagram, or even create a tumblr or posterous blog for that purpose, making us feel as if our friends are right there with us even if we’re sitting all alone at a restobar.
Hell, even the most private moments like when we are in the loo, we are always connected. I’ve stopped reading the newspapers while I’m sitting on the throne, and instead browse through news sites or take part at discussions forums from my mobile. The other day, my colleague from office sent me a whatsapp message, “Hey, is that you inside the loo?” and I replied immediately by clicking a photo of my legs and rolled-down pants, “Yes”.
And speaking of private moments, there’s this really funny Japanese dude on Instagram that my colleague Emma follows, who updates his followers with pictures of the women he’s currently sleeping with! Lolz. And the caption goes, “Hi. Today I am sleeping with Izanami. She is from my office.” or “Hello my friends. Today I am sleeping with Masuyo, we met at a pub last night. She is a very nice girl.” and you see a photo of him with the particular girl under the blanket waving and smiling cutely at the camera. And don’t be surprised by this, because we already have serial entrepreneurs like Cindy Gallop who are trying to socialize sex and make sex a part of social networking.
Social networking and easy connectivity have really changed our attitude and perception. We have become more impatient. Remember how a few years ago, we would call the girl’s hostel from a local PCO booth and fix a date, and then we would be there at that time and place to meet the other person? If the other person hadn’t shown up yet, we would just wait and wait, patiently. And then mobile phones became affordable for everybody and suddenly we would sms each other “Where are you now? Where are you now?” every goddamn minute if the other person’s running a bit late.
Now, it’s all about GPS. We track each other from our phones to know where the other person is in real-time! What happened to all the patience? And what happened to the feeling of being alone? One look at my Google Latitude and I see my friends everywhere across the city, some moving, some static, some together (if you know what I mean), and some close to where I am, suddenly making me feel like I have company because my close friends are nearby.
When people asked me (back when I was staying by myself), “You live alone?” I would reply, “Yes. But funny thing… I never feel alone.” …which is true because my phone never stops with all the notifications. Man is a social animal, and today’s technology has really bridged the gap between long distance and real-time. Now that I have moved in with two roomies, things are STILL the same. “Somebody just rang the bell, can you please open the door coz I have a freaking hangover” was my tweet to my roommate, separated by just a wall. “Here’s a pic of the breakfast our cook made for us this morning. I’ve uploaded it at Yelp and gave it 4 stars. Are you coming out of your room to take a look?” was another message sent to another roommate.
And even when I am staying all alone in this new house, it just feels like all my friends are right next to me. “Oh you’re watching that movie on hulu? Let’s sync our streaming so we can watch it together” messaged a friend of mine thousands of miles away. And then we would activate our skype just to know we’re watching the movie together, or even take it to the next level by inviting other friends online and having a group video chat with them at G+ Hangout. Sometimes we would even sync our music playlist through last.fm and other such software/devices so we know we are listening to the same stuff, or even host a radio channel for our friends so they can listen to our collection in real-time.
With 4G coming soon, things are even going to be easier and faster than this. Look at the gaming world even now. Most of the games I play from my mobile today are MMOs – Massively Multiplayer Online games, such as MMORPG, MMOFPS, MMORTS etc. I can play many games with my friends or even strangers across the world while I’m staying all alone locked in a dungeon (just a figure of speech because I’m sure there won’t be any signal inside an actual dungeon :P ). Remember 20 years ago when we were writing letters to our sweethearts, the only way we could play video games with our friends was if they were sitting right next to us?
Maybe today’s mushy hallmark e-card should read “Just because I have all these friends on facebook, twitter, G+, whatsapp, BB, instagram, skype, etc… doesn’t mean I am not lonely”.
Now, that would be a killer slogan, tailor stitched for the romantic youth of today.