January 04, 2014 | By: Vidyanath Aarvi

Just to Say Hello!!!

          We are living in a world which has large platforms to connect with large networks. There is Yahoo! Messenger, Skype, Google Hangout, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Blackberry Messenger and not to be missed WhatsApp. Using all this almost makes one run of things to say but not the desire to talk. A few typical conversations:

He: Hi
Me: Oh hi, nice to hear from you after a long time – how are you?
He: All good
Me: (silence) How are you? (Question repeated)
He: Good.
(Last seen at 3:22 PM)
Me: (more silence) ok, Bye.
He: Bye.
Remember it was he who told me hello first.

Skype. (on an incoming call)
He: Hey, you there?
Me: Yes. What time is it there?
He: 11:30 PM
Me: Oh – it is 7:30 AM here. How come so late at night?
He: I saw you on line.
Me: Oh oh – emoticon of raised eyebrows!!!!
He: Ok – I need to go to sleep
Me: Good night
He: Good-day!!!!!

Facebook. (a ping)
He: Hey, are you in Office?
Me: No, I am not.
He: Cool!!!
Me: No, it's Hot!! It's 32 °C – ha ha.
He: Emoticon of Like!. Have fun – bye.
Me: Bye.

          Initially I used to get irritated by this banter because of the lack of content of conversation. But I now realize that there is a pattern here. Our lives are so open and documented that give out details of what we do, what we eat, where we are, with whom we are – all unwanted information that we choose to give. We may speak the truth but not necessarily the whole truth.

          The more distributed our lives are, the more diminished is the need for personal communication. We still seem to reach out, using a variety of platforms just to say hello, even when we have nothing to say. I call this an “Always On” syndrome.

          The empty ping has now become a thing of the day. In the early days of the cell phone, when incoming calls were still being charged, a missed call (message without any content) was a code between friends about where to meet, when to meet or a message that you are missed. The empty ping is the later avatar of the missed call – in a world where we are always online but not always connected; constantly together but spatially and emotionally alone (notice how 2 persons are together but each on their own cell phones).

          The missed ping remains the human touch in the digital space that reassures us that on the other side of that seductive interface and the buzzing gadget, is somebody we can say hello to.