DM My Heart: The Power of Messaging in the Modern World
I try not to quote Britney too often, mostly as I’m pretty sure she never said anything worth writing down. But, there was one song that resonates with my naughties-upbringing, and still holds strong even in today’s volatile, listless, selfie-stick-wielding climate.
“It’s been hours seems like days
Since you went “Away”
And all I do is check the screen
To see if you’re okay”
“Forever, email my heart..”
You know the one. Actually, you probably don’t. It was a forgettable album track. But, on reflection, one that perhaps was undoubtedly ahead of its time.
So, for as long as Briney’s been in PVC, and as long as screens have been slowly invading our everyday existence like a cybonic plague, there have been electronic messages. There were messages before, apparently, but they came largely via pigeon, or in the form of dots and dashes.
There was the golden age, of course. Of 160 characters, the birth of “lol”, the ubitous colon brackets smiley – and wry demands of “tb”. I remember my own first mobile phone; a Phillips Savvy in obnoxious canary yellow. Jesus. I can still hear the shrill tones of “Mozart” blasting out from behind its lurid facade. I’m sure Mozart would be pleased to know his music was still being appreciated, even if it was in the style of semi-distinguishable beeps and boops only, at this stage.
What I remember mostly about my Philips Savvy though, other than the joys of Biocalander – of course – was the discovery of the humble text. How amazing it sounded, that you didn’t have to actually bother having a physical conversation with somebody, you could just send a quick sentence and be done with it. From that point onwards I have been vehemently against talking on the phone, as many of my loved ones will attest to, especially on birthdays.
So, electronic messaging, in its many forms, has become a way of life. It has become fundamental to our daily existence, from sexting to job applications. Voting to e-cards, and lots and lots of unspeakable things in-between.
When I was 12 I used to go on chat rooms and talk with random strangers all over the world and call them my “boyfriends”. I think at one point I was insistent I had 14. Those were troubling times, but I will always wonder if my initial experience of hours spent mindlessly DMing random strangers from the interwebs has somehow come to influence my relationships, both past and current. What struck me most recently is a correlation that pretty much every meaningful romantic relationship I have had with a man has begun with an extended period of messaging. And I don’t just mean those few stolen texts you send to bae in the first throws of romance.
What I mean is – for whatever reason, most guys that I’ve become attached to have been after we have become real fucking pally via messaging. Facebook, Whatsapp, Yahoo chat rooms, and lest we forget the darling jewel of all teenage angst – MSN Messenger.
It makes me wonder if I have adapted some kind of filtration system in my head that means if a guy is really “the one” then I need to lead him through several weeks of my own style of online grooming, where I can weedle out personal details, make hilarious tidbit comments, and ultimately encourage them to fall in love with me. Yes, like a peado on on a Belieber thread, I too am a deviant of the internet, a byproduct of technology – and humbly – a fool for cyberlove.
I was starkly reminded of this recently when me and current squeeze unfortunately had to spend the last several months apart, on different sides of the globe – meaning our relationship was largely based online. And if I’m really honest, I think that’s where I felt the feels, as strange as that sounds. He says the FB messenger noise reminds him of me. And as ardently dystopian as that may be, I thought that was kind of cute.
None the less, I came to the conclusion that maybe the time apart was actually a good thing for us, as it gave us time to decide if we really wanted to be together, rather than wind up together through circumstance, or boredom, or simply a burning desire not to die alone. And then it struck me: this was actually pretty similar to how almost all of my relationships started. We’d become firm online chat buddies and then I’d eventually worn him down with my words like some kind of crazy, love-whittling carpenter.
As a writer, I’m aware I probably come across better on paper. Cross that with the fact that if I like a guy I can barely even look them in the eye, get sweaty palms, ramble. Overthink, over-talk, make embarrassing self-deprecating jokes which only serve to make me look like some kind of wittering moron. But online, I don’t have to be that person. I can google synonyms, apply flattering lighting, appear apparently aloof, all whilst carefully dissecting the situation from behind the safety of a screen, like some kind of evangelist for pure, yet data-rich, love.
And all things considered, there is really no better platform for making someone feel like they need you than becoming some kind of constant in their life. Bored? Hi. Sad? Hi. Hungover? Let’s make idle chit chat until we become so fucking integral to each other’s lives that if the messaging was to end a little digital hole would appear in the cosmos and obliterate the universe. That kind of love, that’s what people need. Universe-obliterating love that borders lightly on unhealthy obsession.
It appears somewhere along the line we’ve managed to replace courting with messaging (your Nan will be sad to know.) But perhaps this was an inevitable turn of events. I’m sure no doubt once upon a time cavemen left hieroglyphics of humorous prehistoric scenarios on cave walls to woo the girl with the most teeth and least lice. Prisoners tucked notes decisively in to their gooch creases, for delivery to a hot young thing down the hall. Life always finds a way. And at the moment the way, curious as it may be, is incessant cyber communication. For better or for worse, the future is now. And it’s coming through your inbox.
I suppose love, like all other human conditions, will evolve over time. And it will largely be more disturbing than “catfish” or people that buy used knickers on Gumtree for cheap thrills. If Japanese guys can marry an app avatar, then perhaps there’s hope for us all. It makes me laugh to think of my initial trials and tribulations with online messaging. No one wants to relive the days of “wanna cyber?” – surely. But if that’s what it took to get me where I am now then I think I’m okay with that. The younger generation will never know the torment of someone running out of credit mid-chat. The horror of your mum picking up the phone and cutting you off from “Horney4U04”, so be thankful for what we had. As sad as it may be, those may have been the last few innocent years of the internet.