Life | Hashtagging #Romance

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Hashtagging #Romance
Text by Sohini Datta
Published: Volume 19, Issue 2, February, 2011

As the days of ‘kiss and tell’ get replaced with ‘tweet and tell,’ Sohini Datta explores the dark alleys of Twitter and takes a byte out of virtual romance

The idea of romance is changing; it’s no more looked at through rose-tinted glasses. Love notes are scribbled in 140 characters and we call it ‘micropoetry’. Clouded by the seductive smoke of Marlboro Lights and after one too many martinis, we open our souls to the 190 million users on Twitter; somebody out there will surely hear us. Recent studies show that 40 per cent of Twitter feed is pointless babble while only four per cent is news. If Internet was the revolution, Twitter is the alternate reality. The word means, ‘a short burst of inconsequential information’ and ‘chirps from birds’ which explains the purpose of Twitter. The purpose is that there is no purpose. Kids who went to first grade with 5000 hours of TV under their belt have now grown up into modern day hipsters. Under the microscopic eye of consumerism, they are detached and disconnected trying to find themselves somewhere between text messages and Facebook uploads. Armed with vices that they inherited from the modern world in a platter, they walk into the sunset; only the sun never sets in this realm.

This displaced, abandoned generation of ours, losing faith in human relationships, had formed a New Age counter-culture. From nouveau cocaine parties to sexual experimentation, the Internet is freedom from the emptiness of our lives. Andy Warhol once said, ‘Fantasy love is much better than reality love. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.’ We search, we find and because blood still runs in our veins, we sometimes feel like going forth and touching these virtual apparitions; after all being loved is our greatest luxury.

Meet Karan (name changed), a 30-year-old scriptwriter by profession. A failing marriage and ill health plagued him till he turned to Twitter. Now after 19,000 tweets and 1000 followers, he tweets, “Twitter is a great way to restart life.” He follows women who give him company and comfort him. They think of him not as a creep but as a smart guy who can woo them in 140 characters. He showers attention on them replying to all their tweets, showering affection and attention. These are his friends, his life. His iPhone buzzes with @replies, they all need him and day after day he sends out words into the Twitter void.

Skim through urban dictionary to realise that this is one of the biggest wildfires to hit modern life. From Twitterspanks to Tweetups, anything and everything is possible. If your mind can think it, Twitter can do it.

On a public timeline there is no intimacy so Karan DMs (Direct Message) the special ones. Couple of messages later, they exchange numbers, he takes her to Whatsapp and they spend nights like teenagers in love, chatting without a sense of the hour. It’s beautiful till one drunken day they hook up. Suddenly they are fumbling strangers who don’t even like each other enough for a one-night stand. Their conversation finally ends. They go apart on Twitter noiselessly. ‘Tweetups are awkward,’ Karan says. “You think you know people, yet they are complete strangers, I am not sure what to make of the feeling, it’s just uncomfortable. She was desperately single, I needed to touch someone; we thought we were made for each other.”

A Tweetup according to the urban dictionary means an organised or impromptu gathering of people that use Twitter. Suchi is a 26-year-old writer who owns a cat. She is also part of the Social Media Club in her city. The club is on Twitter and has 100 members. They all decide to Tweetup for the movie Social Network. She is unsure of the people, so she drags her friends along. They buy the tickets, watch the movie and leave. Suchi and her friends met no one; just watched men who came for the movie alone and wondered, ‘This is really weird.’

The brainchild of Jack Dorsey was compassionate in many ways to Generation Y. In the advertising boom of body image campaigns, Twitter only asked for a 1cm by 1 cm ‘display picture.’ It allowed us to follow anyone from celebrities to strangers. Everyone suddenly became the celebrity. If one could spin out 140 characters of smart sounding gibberish, there would always be people to gobble it up. Nerds, geeks, poets, writers, gathered under the safe umbrella looking for like-minded people; they met women, men and finally they weren’t alone. They didn’t just write blogs and wait for someone to comment, they didn’t upload photos for their moms to check on Facebook. On Twitter, they were celebrities of their own accord with a set of ‘followers’ who listened to everything they had to say. Technology that first tore us apart from sunsets and rainbows and locked us up in our rooms in front of blinking monitors finally set us free. As we wandered through ‘timelines’ we were gripped with a need to touch, feel these people in real life. After all, we have been looking for them all our life. In this cauldron of confused lives, as the lines between virtual and real continue to blur, sometimes in the wind, one hears of stories that make our hearts flutter like that of Kiya and Rahul. He started following Kiya way back in 2009; hers was a male-bashing spoof account, he was a vegetarian gourmet chef with a sense of humour. Kiya says, “I like my humour dry and he likes his, crackling. We suited each other and I took my time to ‘follow’ him back. He wasn’t cracking the usual MTV jokes. He intrigued me.” The mutual admiration of theirs, moved from their timelines into a real-life coffee date. Movies followed and so did love. Rahul says, “We are all taking chances, whether it’s a woman you meet at a bar or one you meet over Twitter. You never know where it will click, because the heart still runs involuntarily. When it does work though, there is no turning back.”

Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968 writes, ‘I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.’ Call us a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves but in our loneliness, we are not alone. Sometimes the unity in isolation, saves us from ourselves, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s surely changing lives if nothing else and to embrace it and blur the lines of virtual and reality is the only way forward.

Mind Your Language
If you are going to tweet, you might as well learn the lingo:

Follow: This is not Facebook so here you don’t add a friend, you follow one. You could follow anyone.
Timeline: Twitter feed shows on something like a wall known as the timeline.
@replies: When someone tweets, you can hit a reply back at them.
DM: Direct Message, only possible if the person and you are both following each other. The messages are restricted between the two of you only unlike @replies which appear on your public timeline.
Hashtag: It’s a tag used to talk about a specific subject on Twitter.
Sunday is not the only day for confessions
The week is different in Twitterland. Tuesdays are known as #Truthful Tuesdays, a day to hashtag (#) confessions in 140 characters and Fridays are #Follow Fridays when we write a line about all those beautiful people we follow and want our followers to do the same; call it a Twitter recommendation.

@Favstar
Like everything else in life, Twitter also has a funny bone. Ask @Favstar a sister application that has taken birth because of the funny tweets. Every time someone ‘favourites’ or ‘retweets’ your tweet, @Favstar collects it creating a leaderboard. Following Kant, now tweets have become the means to the end of getting featured on the leaderboard resulting in what they call the ‘Twitter elite.’ And you thought Conan O’Brian was funny; tsk tsk.

Here are some tickling examples we found:
@roughdiction
My internet is so slow, it’s just faster to drive to the Google headquarters and ask them shit in person.
@stevetweeters
Just to clarify, now that all the animals are dropping dead we don’t have to recycle anymore right?
@ladymalady2011
My vampire romance begins and ends with mosquito bites
@rodney_at_large
I’d follow her until the end of twitter.
@alphabetfiend
I’m that cat that curiosity keeps killing.
@iHateJeffBaker
Pro Tip: Ladies, nothing says ‘I wish I stayed in school’ more than knock-off designer sunglasses and purses.

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