A little less conversation

Sahil Shah on why he is taking a break from mobile chat applications

a-little-less-conversation-280x456Instant messaging is one of the leading causes of mental illness across the world [after Sajid Khan’s movies, of course]. No wonder the art of conversation has steadily gone downhill.  The days are over where if you wanted to talk to someone you had to meet them.

These days everyone prefers having his or her communication being ‘instant’—just like their coffee. You instantly message, you instantly reply… and if someone does not respond to your message immediately then you instantly think that they hate you.

What makes instant messaging terrible is that it makes you paranoid. People are constantly checking their phone to know if they’ve got a response to the witless ‘forward’ that they have sent.

Even Big Brother is worried

The reason I’m writing this is because I used to [used being the important word here] be a fan of WhatsApp, the most commonly used mobile application to wish everyone ‘Gd Mrning’.

WhatsApp recently introduced a feature where you see two blue tick marks if someone has read your message. Let’s have a minute of silence to observe the death of the excuse ‘Super sorry yaar, I just saw my phone and read your messages’. Now, not only can you see that the message has been read, but you can also see when the person has read it. Somewhere, Big Brother is trying to uninstall WhatsAapp saying, “This is getting a little too much”.

This is a clear-cut invasion of someone’s privacy. What’s next? Getting a receipt with a signature of the person indicating that they’ve read the message? Or a detailed list of all the conversations they’ve had, so you know that they’re ignoring multiple people and not just you?

K, c u l8tr

As I delved deeper I realised why I don’t like WhatsApp and other instant messengers—it is because there is no fun left in communicating anymore. Everything has been reduced to monosyllabic conversations, hello has become hi, goodnight is gnite and you has become u. People have become so lazy that they do not even want to type three letters because it causes mild discomfort and are worried they could get carpal tunnel syndrome.

The worst side effect of this trend has been the creation of the word ‘K’.

‘K’ is short for ok, which is short for okay which is short for Oh Kool And Yaay [I made the last one up, but who cares]. This side effect has crept into our lives and has now become an everyday phenomenon.

Mom: Hey son, coming home for dinner tonight?

Me: K

Mom: Bring home some paneer.

Me: K

Mom: Ur brother had a horrible accident.

Me: Oh no! We should make sure he is all right.

Mom: K

‘K’ denotes that you are too lazy to acknowledge anything that I am saying. K is the appropriate response only when someone asks you what the chemical formula of Potassium is.

K as a response agitates you because you know the person clearly has no interest in what you’re saying. I just hope that this ‘lingo’ never reaches films. Imagine if the Star Wars movie decided to use messaging jargon:

Darth Vader: I am your father

Luke Skywalker: K

Darth Vader: Uh…

Maybe in the future every single film will climax with the protagonist uttering just one letter and that’s a future I’m supremely petrified of.

I’ll be right back… or maybe not

Apart from ‘K’, another thing that gets on my nerves is when someone says BRB. It is short for Be Right Back and it’s really ironic because people who use this never return immediately. From experience I can tell you that people who say BRB generally put their phone away and then ignore you for the next five years or so.

BRB is the perfect way to get out of any conversation. One of the main reasons I think that people feel ignored is because BRB simply denotes ‘You’re not interesting enough. I’m going to make you wait while I do everything else that is a lot more fun than chatting with you’. It’s my firm belief that the Cold War started when Russia said its version of BRB to America and then never got back.

We need better and more realistic alternatives to BRB like:

BRBITH: Be right back in three hours.

BRBJK: Be right back. Just kidding.

INCB: I’m not coming back.

DDSM: Dude don’t stop messaging.

Waiting for you to reply

‘K’ and ‘BRB’ are still bearable in the face of getting absolutely no reply. It’s so annoying when you send a message and wait for eons but still don’t get a reply. We humans have developed a habit of constantly checking our phones, because obviously staring at the screen is going to force it to send a message faster.

Waiting for a reply to your message brings with it a certain amount of paranoia. You start to think that maybe the message was incorrect, maybe you should have said something else, maybe you should have sent a photo of a cow, maybe you should have just not messaged or maybe you should constantly text ‘?’ until they start replying again.

As a comedian I’m used to instant validation. I’m used to people laughing at my jokes when I perform them but when I send a joke to someone, I don’t know how they will react. So if they respond with a K then they didn’t like my joke, if they say BRB then they need time to think about it. However, if they don’t respond at all, then either my joke is so bad that you’re dead or I’m a terrible comedian, which I clearly am not [at least my mom thinks so]. Hence I’ve decided that if people don’t reply, then I’m going to delete their contacts and never talk to them ever again. It will be brutal but it needs to be done because ‘no reply for no reply makes the whole world mute’ and in all honesty that may be a better world to live in.

So here we are: living in a world where people are constantly trying their best to maintain conversation but making it worse—one line at a time. I want to avoid mental illness so I think I’m going to take a sabbatical and get off my WhatsApp and throw away my smart phone. Come along and join me, let’s go back to when times were simpler. If you want to speak to me, you can easily send me a letter or better yet use a pigeon [they are stupid but reliable]. Remember if I don’t reply then I maybe busy and I will be BRB but no matter what… and I will reply, K?

This was first published in the December 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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