Digital pains

Newly digitized 60-somethings are out to wreck Nandini Krishnan's social media mojo

Digital pains
Remember when we didn’t have email and Facebook and mobile phones? We couldn’t pretend we were on important calls to avoid relatives. We were forced into long conversations on the landline before the era of caller IDs and blocking options. We had to actually go to birthday parties, instead of tagging old pictures with sappy messages and writing on Facebook walls.

If you were born in the 80s, you know what this is like. And if you’re misanthropic – which is really just the politically correct term for ‘anti-stupid’ – you know why you thank the multiple inventors of the internet and social networks every day, for minimising the obligation of face-to-face interaction with people.

If you have a reasonably good memory, you also remember the days when you had to book a trunk call to reach people who lived in other cities and countries. Everyone had to yell on the phone, and then wait for the sound wave to travel to the other person, so that conversations usually went like this: “Hello?...Hello?...Are you there?” “Hello?...Can you hear me?...Yes, you can!” “Ah...I thought I...Yes, what?” “Sorry?...Can you hear me?” “Hello? Helloooooo?” “HELLO!” “Yes! Finally!” “What? Final exams, did you say?” “HELLO! PAH!”


Some of your relatives still tend to yell over the mobile phone when they make long distance calls.

Now, all was well when the generation we think of as ‘adults’ – the generation which is anywhere between fifty and ninety now – thought Viber was a sex toy. However, a combination of émigré children and affordable smart-phones has awakened them to the financial advantages of ‘getting tech savvy’. Nothing excites a middle-aged South Asian more than the prospect of saving money. Except the prospect of ‘actually seeing people in America!’

And so, one day, I stumbled out of my room for coffee, and heard an aunt holding forth on how she speaks to her daughter, while the others listened in fascination and asked intelligent questions like, “Spike is the same as Viber?”

“No, no,” the aunt said, patiently, “Not Spike. It’s Sky-pee. That’s for the computer. Viber is for the phone.”

“I think it’s Skype, not Sky-pee,” another relative interjected, “And the best is Google Hangouts. You can use it on both phone and computer. My son installed everything in my phone before he left.”

Who would grudge a loving mother the chance to ensure her offspring are eating roti every day, and also using the pressure cooker she sent along, undeterred by the prospect of her kids being questioned by the FBI in case there was another cooker bomb explosion?

However, I take issue with the confidence they gain from this. Next thing you know, they’re on Facebook. Thankfully, I don’t have a Facebooking mum. When she was contemplating it, I said, “Obviously, all my friends will add you. And then, there’s this socialite circle. And your patients.” She shuddered and refrained.

Unfortunately, not all ‘adults’ are asocial.

When uncle-aunty types add me, I tend to put them on the Restricted list. But, every now and then, I write a Public post, so that people will not figure out they are on Restricted. Every time I post a quip under Public, they read it and diligently counter the flippancy with aspiring wisdom.

One day, I quoted Seinfeld: “I’m tired of pretending I’m excited every time it’s somebody’s birthday.

What is the big deal? How many times do we have to celebrate that someone was born? Every year, over and over. All you did was not die for 12 months. That’s all you’ve done, as far as I could tell.”

Pat came the response from a friend’s father: “Imagine living a life where every day is just as joyous and you receive gifts, cards (not any more in these days of email) and good wishes from friends and family. As well as a day of celebration, a birthday is also a time for reflecting on your life and reviewing what the intervening years have brought you. In the meantime, why not live each day as your birthday? Why miss out on an excuse to celebrate life? If it sounded philosophical, it was not meant to be!!!”

I’m not sure what irritates me more about the last statement – its inherent contradiction or the multiple exclamation marks.

[quote]How do you react when you find the biology teacher of whom you were terrified in school has poked you?[/quote]

Worse, they poke. How do you react when you find the biology teacher of whom you were terrified in school has poked you? And how do you react when you find your aunt has gone and poked your father-in-law, who has poked her back, and they are now playing Candy Crush Saga with each other?

The way I see it, we only have two choices – either all social networks need to set an upper age limit; or, we need to stop young people from crossing the seas.