OPN_PIC Love in the time of social media 1
An Indian florist arranges a flower display at a florist shop ahead of Valentine's Day in Chennai. Image Credit: AFP

Her high decibel voice jarred my ears, that girl in a red dress, petite and pretty. She screeched at the husband: “Just get me those roses, why do I have to tell you? I need it for my Instagram story, soon, the day is about to be over!” She was fuming and the poor man saw red literally and otherwise! I was at the supermarket yesterday and the day happened to be “Rose Day”, marking the beginning of the love-smeared week! My jaw surely hit the ground as the red dame grabbed the roses and the husband, pouted like a pretentious fish, cruelly nudged the man to smile, and “click” she went! Her Instagram story was sorted!

For me, a diehard romantic, the scene looked grim, as I could see that this week, ironically, “love” would wearily slink away from the heart and turn into a much slurred, commercialised emotion, losing all its sheen and glory! It would have to take on more materialist forms such as those of diamond rings, flowers, chocolates and just be the stuff that social media demands — heartless selfies! Cupid would probably be frowning now as he shoots his arrows into “virtual” beings!

Man calls himself the best and the most superior creation. Indeed he is. However, as he has evolved so has the shades of love. My cousin, just returned from her first date with a disgruntled demeanour, she quips: “It was easier to chat with him on Tinder, I just didn’t know what to say to him and nor did he. But we can talk to each other virtually for hours!” So, love in times of social media has lost its depth. I was reminded of my first date when we chatted hours on end at a mechanic’s garage over tea in earthen cups, as his car decided to break down. There was no anxiety of capturing the moment on selfies and splashing it across social media or this constant checking of notifications for the fear of missing out and paying more attention to the smart phone than to the person one is with.

As I look back and rummage amid past years about facts that touch the heart, couples like Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning come to mind. It all began with Robert Browning’s admiration for her poetry and to express his admiration for her work, Robert Browning wrote a letter to Elizabeth Barrett. Thus, began a correspondence that would lead to one of the greater love stories of the 19th century. Elizabeth was a 39-year-old spinster at that time. She also suffered from a back injury. Elizabeth’s father bitterly opposed their union. Robert Browning’s family, likewise, had misgivings due to Elizabeth’s precarious health. Twenty months and 575 letters after the first letter arrived, the couple secretly married. His love swept her off the wheelchair, thus giving her a new lease of life.

Wooing in the time of social media has donned a new garb, in the form of texts, emoticons, gif files and has turned out to be a lethal combination of ROMCOM sentimentality, Victorian romanticism and marketing kitsch that places an impossible burden on love.

These days when a fuming, jilted lover throws acid on the face of a girl, or stabs her for refusing to marry him, I wonder how many of these lovers have bought Valentine’s Day cards, roses and chocolates to woo their so-called “beloved”! And has the capacity to bear rejections stooped to such hellish levels? Love also translates into letting go and respecting the decision of the other ... to shower happiness unconditionally on the person who completely shifts the axis of one’s world.

Well, I’d prefer to celebrate each relationship daily. Precious as they are, they need nurturing each day. The world is in need of a lot of compassion and genuine care that probably would also keep mental illnesses such as depression at bay. So, this Valentine’s Day, I resolve, over a candle-light dinner, to continue loving, helping and spreading the incense of love to all who need it, because love can create miracles and we do need miracles.

Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter:@navanitavp.