Texting in the Time of ‘Cholera’

I tend the mobile now

Like an injured bird

We text, text, text

Our significant words.

I re-read your first,

Your second, your third,

Look for your small xx,

Feeling absurd.

The codes we send

arrive with a broken chord.

I try to picture your hands,

Their image is blurred.

Nothing my thumbs press

Will ever be heard.

An excerpt from ‘Text’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Dealing with the complex themes of love, passion, mortality, and death, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera proves to be far ahead of its times. Over time, political trends change, societal structures transform, and subsequently, the personal aspirations of people undergo a transformation. Individuals begin to feel differently, hate differently, and love differently. However, immense similarities can be drawn between the idea of human emotions as delineated in Marquez’s novel and the concept of human emotions prevalent in the tough times brought by the pandemic. Seemingly eternal uncertainty characterizes contemporary times and what has become an exceedingly crucial part of our lives at such a juncture is the practice of texting. Parted by distance and driven by the need to exist in a ‘safe space,’ texting has become an ‘aspirational’ custom for some and a ‘façade of intimacy’ for others. Critics of texting calling it a corporate sham while its young admirers consider it the most convenient way of existing. Regardless of the divergent opinions, what everyone seems to agree on is the fact that texting has changed our perceptions and living patterns in considerable ways.

Texting comes with the benefit of a convenient physical environment. In-person interactions are marked by societal judgments and prejudices, ranging from deducing people’s personalities from the way they carry themselves to deriding a set of ‘unacceptable’ actions like getting too close to a person of the opposite sex. Taking into account such ludicrous expectations, it is fair to expect the young populace to switch to a safer, sensitive, and free platform. Famous philosopher Jean Paul Sartre advances, ‘there is no such thing as human nature except freedom’. Human beings crave a free space that allows them to be their most authentic selves and undoubtedly texting provides them with this. Less spontaneity and more reasonable thinking are implied virtues of texting. Individuals can explore their thoughts that are to be advanced, organize them and be their aspirational selves. Texting induces a sense of patience, stillness, and investment in a conversation among the engaged persons. To compare texting with conventional modes of exchange like letters and telegrams wouldn’t be fair since the benefits of the latter undeniably exceed the merits of this modern custom. But, in these changing times of quick catch-ups and pretentious social gatherings, texting somehow preserves the legacy of writing letters, doesn’t it?

An atmosphere of discourse with people comfortably trying to advance their points, is discernible. Firm opinions are formed and groundless ones change via the exchange of texts. To call the widespread use of texting, especially in the pandemic and eventual lockdown, a revolutionary change in the history of human civilization would be a romanticized and entitled perspective. After all, we need to remember the way texting is employed by a section that forms a major proportion of socio-economic dynamics. Needless to say, the availability of texting services is expanding to a larger section of society but to assume that it is for the discourse and only discourse that the lower sections of society make use of this modern phenomenon is completely illogical. It is, most commonly, used for the exchange of regular conversations and sometimes for emotional exchanges of a developing ‘love story’. Texting has changed the way people love and this is not only confined to a specific social stratum but applicable to almost all sections in varying ways.

The concept of ‘Long Distance Relationship’ is functional only owing to the bliss called texting. To construct a romantic relationship on the basis of exchanging conversations only or majorly via texts is a delicate space to delve into. Apart from the need to develop absolute trust and immense cooperation, it demands a person to shatter every inch of anxiety, overthinking, and personal struggles to live and love peacefully. To sincerely wait for one’s lover to reply, while thinking about the worst possibilities, certainly induces patience and an inexplicable beauty in a relationship. At the same time, it makes a person adjust themselves to uncertainty. The idea of mortality and its nexus with passionate love, which Marquez talks about in his novel, manifests itself in lovers waiting for each other’s texts and the wait percolating into their subconscious.

Again, we need to constantly remind ourselves that texting has a lot to do with literacy and therefore class, caste, and gender privileges (not me trying to make my writings inclusive). Many people, however, feel that texting merely creates a façade of intimacy while the state of affairs is literally very different in real life (IRL as they call it). This brings us to larger questions of reality itself. To conform to the ideas and notions of the ‘real world’ is just to be a part of the larger bandwagon which condones insensitivity and cruelty in the name of competition over aspirations and fresh ideas to change the world. Even if it’s a façade, it at least promises generous and more humane possibilities than blatantly accepting current situations. I again reiterate, to text is to care! To text is to wage a war against personal instabilities! To text is to initiate a discourse! Texting, in current times, is the most beautiful flight of the written word.