I Just Pinged to Say Hello

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SummaryA host of social networks find us more connected than ever before, but leave us groping for words in the digital space.

A host of social networks find us more connected than ever before, but leave us groping for words in the digital space.

I am making a list of all the platforms that I use to connect with the large networks that I belong to. Here goes: I use Yahoo! Messenger to talk to my friends in east Asia. Most of my work meetings happen on Skype and Google Hangout. A lot of friendly chatter fills up my Facebook Messenger. Twitter is always available for a little back-chat and bitching. On the phone, I use Viber to make VoIP calls and WhatsApp is the space for unending conversations spread across days. And these are just the spaces for real-time conversation. Across all these platforms, something strange is happening. As I stay connected all the time, I am facing a phenomenon where we have run out of things to say, but not the desire to talk.

I had these three conversations today on three different instant-messaging platforms:

Person 1 (on WhatsApp): Hi.

Me: Hey, good to hear from you. How are you doing?

Person 1: Good.

Me (after considerable silence): So what’s up?

Person 1: Nothing.

End of conversation.

Person 2 (On an incoming video call on Skype): Hey, you there?

Me: Yeah. What time is it for you right now?

Person 2: It is 10 at night.

Me: Oh! That is late. How come you are calling me so late?

Person 2: Oh, I saw you online.

Me: Ok….. *eyes raised in question mark*

Person 2: So, that’s it. I am going to sleep soon.

Me: Ok…. Er…goodnight.

Person2: Goodnight.

We hang up.

Person 3 (pinging me on Facebook): Hey, you are in the US right now?

Me: Yes. I am attending a conference here.

Person 3: Cool!

Me: Umm… yeah, it is.

Person 3: emoticon of a Facebook 'like'. Have fun. Bye.

Initially I was irritated at the futility of these pings that are bewildering in their lack of content. I dismissed it as one of those things, but I realise that there is a pattern here. Our lives are so particularly open and documented, such minute details of what we do, where we are and who we are with, is now available for the rest of the world to consume, making most of the conversations seeking information, redundant. If you know me on my social media networks, you already know most of the basic things that you would want to know about me. And it goes without saying that no matter how close

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