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The new frontier

How different is the dance of love in the digital age?

The new frontier

Love is strange these days. It hasn’t changed, no. It’s still that feeling of warmth, of heat, of measured breaths.

The paths that lead to it however have altered. Technology has had a significant impact on modern romance — perhaps altering it indelibly.

To me it plays out like a ladder. Each participant carefully balanced on their rung. Beneath you someone that likes you. Above you someone you desire, embroiled in a spiral leading nowhere. But wasn’t that always the case? The geek likes the cheerleader, the cheerleader likes the quarterback, the quarterback likes the music teacher…So what’s changed?

It’s just that these interactions very seldom happen in person. Instead they are wired through multiple tiny portals in your phone. You like a girl’s picture on Instagram; it’s a leap of faith. In return she likes a link you shared on Facebook; really a pittance in return. But there’s enough hope in there for you to string yourself along a little while longer.

It’s quite animalistic in that sense, like the dance of a peacock attracting a hen. It’s structured quite like a flow chart. Try it if you don’t believe me.

And you are guilty of the same. So is the person on the rung below. And the one after. So am I.

Each platform holds a different place on the spectrum. You use Facebook Messenger to work your way towards asking for her number. If you’re texting on WhatsApp, it’s going somewhere. A like on Instagram is serious business, one on Facebook is par for the course. And let’s not even get into Tinder.

It’s tough navigating these digital waters. Sometimes you meet someone and really hit it off in person. There’s an instant connection. Your eyes meet hers, only you don’t look away, she does. You make a crass joke; she laughs and pushes you away playfully. She sees you standing alone and walks over. Whispers a joke from earlier. It’s a scene out of a movie.

Only the next morning she’s gone cold over text.

If this happens to you don’t waste needless hours wondering what went wrong. You are simply on the bottom rung looking up. She in the meantime has gone through your pictures on Instagram, and seen your friends on Facebook. What was organic and natural the night before is now synthetic and data driven. On that tiny screen of her phone you probably lost out to the gym-freak with a manicured beard and half a brain, who just sent her a follow request.

There is also the inverse where the embers of romance are fanned through cyberspace alone. There’s a standard operating procedure to it now. It’s quite animalistic in that sense, like the dance of a peacock attracting a hen. It’s structured quite like a flow chart. Try it if you don’t believe me.

Step One: Go follow someone on Instagram. Everyone wants followers so they’ll most likely accept your advance. If they follow you back, then proceed to Step Two. If not, look elsewhere.

Step Two: Wait a few days then like a picture they posted a couple of months back. This decision is discretionary, but we warned, don’t go too far back in their feed. You’re already in stalker territory, don’t push it. And then you wait. You’ve done your bit. The only way to proceed to Step Three is if they too like a picture of yours. Not just any picture, an old picture. If not, look elsewhere.

Step Three: If you’ve gotten this far, you are in. Send a direct message. The rest I leave up to you.

But no discussion on romance is complete without mentioning those that came before. While writing this piece the following verse sung by Iqbal Bano kept playing in my mind. ‘Ulfat ki nai manzil ko chala, tu baahen daal ke baahon mein/Dil tornay walay dekh ke chal, ham bhi tou paray hain raahon mein’.

This humble request to an old lover requires reinterpretation I suppose. The caution would be the same, tread lightly as you walk astride your new lover, arm-in-arm, for I (your old lover) too might be somewhere on the street. The setting today requires an update — Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook. Spare a thought for those you once loved, for they too might be somewhere on your newsfeed.

All in all, may the algorithms work in your favour.

Kamil Chima

Kamil Chima Headshot
The author studied Political Theory at Harvard College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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