The most used app on my cell phone is this circular one with an icon of a mouthpiece. It’s green in colour and unlike indicated by the logo, I use it more often to send text messages rather than make a free call. Which is weird, because texting takes time and I make a lot of typos.
There are friends with whom I’ve maintained relationships only over messages for the last couple of years. Strong relationships, I’d like to assume. Yet every week one of us messages the other saying:

Hey, we should speak sometime. It's been ages

Yet unsurprisingly, the call doesn’t happen. Busy schedules, bad network and time zone differences could be some of the many reasons. But in reality, I think there are just two of them.
1. Intent. Or the lack of it.
2. Nm to tlk abt.

The first one is straightforward. If you wanted to, you would make it happen. One way or the other, you would call that friend to hear their voice respond to that wonderful word that escaped your lips. Hello
But what if you really did not care about the response? What if the responses were one from the following?

'Nothing much. All good'
'Life's alright'
'Nothing new'
Ok bye!

Last week I spoke to a friend after a year. We were in touch over WhatsApp on and off and knew each other’s whereabouts thanks to the virtual world. But with this call, things were about to get real (pun unintended). The call lasted 5 minutes and 33 seconds. We exchanged pleasantries, discussed work, asked who else we were in touch with and one innocent question, twice.
What else?’
The response remained the same; ‘Nothing much’

But what if there really was more to talk about, but we just didn’t want to?

Interestingly enough, we spent more time texting each other, discussing so much more, than over the call. And this isn’t a one-off case. Most people tend to be more guarded with their thoughts and information while speaking in person. In contrast, many of them would type away a lengthy discourse on their cell phones in public forums and group chats. Why do we hesitate to share our opinion or any personal information, in person? Why would my friend be okay messaging me about his boss, who was a jerk, giving him a hard time rather than talk to me about it?
Texting isn’t easy either. Apart from the typos I keep making, I often get myself into conversations pertaining to texting etiquette.

Friend: Why did you send me a K?
You: Idk. I guess I just typed really quick. What's wrong?
Friend: It's rlly rude nd super annoying. Worse thn sayin F*cK off!
You: k
You: *ok

“Today, you don’t need to muster the courage and battle the butterflies in your stomach when you walk up to someone you are attracted to and nervously attempt to make a conversation out of thin air.”

With the advancement of technology, people now have lesser reasons to speak. Most of our apps now have bots that offer predictive responses to our e-mails and messages. Google offers a feature that lets you see who’s calling and why before even answering the call. And that’s not all. It can also make calls and reservations on your behalf, where a computer speaks with the person on the other end, in a human voice, with the relevant tone, pause et all.
And then there are photos. If you already saw the photos from my trip to Amsterdam or followed my Instagram stories then it is likely that you think you already know so much about my trip and wouldn’t bother calling me up to ask about it. Today, you don’t need to muster the courage and battle the butterflies in your stomach when you walk up to someone you are attracted to and nervously attempt to make a conversation out of thin air.  Because you can just swipe right, cut-the-chase and get straight down to business courtesy dating apps like tinder and coffee-meets-bagel. Ironically, skipping the coffee date.

As humans, talking comes naturally to us and no amount of exclamation points and LETTERS IN CAPS can express our emotions the way we do when we actually speak. Talking sometimes has more character than a tweet. Diction, accent, tone, intent, volume, speed; all influence the conversation and bring life into it. Communication is more open and free but words once spoken can’t be taken aback. Unlike texting, where not only can we choose to be politically correct all the time but also have the option to delete messages after sending them. And this flexibility or luxury (call it what you may) influences our thought and conditions our relationships with the person we text. But texting can be confusing and the lack of emoji education only adds to it. It is hard enough without punctuation and changing abbreviations, let alone explaining to your seventy-year-old uncle what FML stands for and why it’s inappropriate to send the cherry and eggplant emoji in the family WhatsApp group every morning, no matter how much he likes them.

Perhaps we are just lazy and prioritise who we want to speak with and when. After all, most of us would want to speak with our parents as long as they don’t bring up our marriage or how they would like to be grandparents. You video-call your mom to see the look on her face when she sees the first omelette you prepared. You would love to facetime your iPad to see your dog back home only to see her stare and bark at the screen. But of course, you certainly don’t want to speak with the lady from American Express, calling up to offer you a credit card that you aren’t eligible for.

The next time a friend messages you on Facebook saying ‘Hey Wassup?’or when a friend sends you that Happy Diwali or Happy Halloween or Happy Whatever message on WhatsApp, do yourself and them a favour, don’t just reply with a ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป. Don’t hesitate. Take the effort, hit that phone icon, call them up and say Hello.

or you could go like this

You: Hey, we should speak sometime. It's been ages.
Friend: Yea! Totally. It's been so long! How's u?
You: I'm great! Calling you in 3..2..1
Friend: umm what...ohh ok



12 thoughts on “NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT

  1. Amusing! ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, the world of digitization is crazy! I’m more of a talkative, expressive person who likes to send and receive thought-out messages rather than the suggestions.

  2. You said it right Sangeet. I chanced upon an old friend (we were really good friends in our College days) on FB and stayed in touch through messages. One day I called her up. But realised we had really nothing to talk about after the ‘Hi How’s you…” stage!!! It’s back to messaging again now! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Well written piece!!.

    1. It’s funny how the dynamics of some relationships change no? I’ve also noticed that my video calls are much shorter than my phone calls with the same person. Ofcourse this could also be because I feel the added pressure to keep staring into their face through my phone! ๐Ÿ˜€
      Thank you for reading Radhika!

  3. If idea is to stay in touch, does it matter how one does it? Many use WhatsApp to save phone bill. Besides, as you said time difference may complicate things also. It is easier to say things in writing than talking them out. Yes speaking helps in getting emotion out. But if you are phoning someone 1000 miles away what emotion are you going to dig out. At best the other person may hang up. But, I believe people should stay in touch. If talking is not always possible, messaging works too.

    1. Hi Abhijit,

      Thank you for the comment. I agree with you that it isn’t necessary to talk, if we just want to stay in touch. But then again, it isn’t enough to write as well- We could just scroll through the Facebook and Instagram profiles and still have an idea of what’s happening in their lives.
      I believe that talking is a lot more natural and less guarded than writing or texting, where sometimes conversations don’t go beyond a certain invisible superficial layer. I believe that calling up and wishing you a wonderful happy birthday would create joy and a memory that can be cherished by both of us rather than exchanging text messages saying HBD .
      Or maybe it’s just me ๐Ÿ˜€

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