Technology: The real screen saver

Jul 23, 2013, 09:09 IST | Ruchika Kher & Hassan M Kamal

It's easy to establish that the increasing use of technology creates barriers in relationships. But if you look closer, it's possible to accept that today's digital tools are actually helping people get closer. Whether it's long-distance relationships or parents missing their children in faraway lands � video chats, text messaging and usage of various apps have helped bonds grow stronger. The GUIDE looks at how these new-age creations are helping people connect

When Divya Nair, a banker, moved to India from Glasgow, she not just left her old job, her close friends and her apartment back there — but she also left a piece of her heart — the man she loved. She was apprehensive about how the relationship would work in a situation where both were living in two continents. However, soon she recognised that living in the 21st century has its perks.

Technological developments are playing a major role in getting people closer and enabling staying in touch a lot easier than before

“I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have FaceTime (an app that makes video calls over Wi-Fi from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac to someone else’s). It helps me see him whenever I want, which sometimes helps me forget that he is not in the same country,” shares Nair.

It’s an app-y world
The 26-year-old is not alone. Innumerable people have benefited from a number of apps and tools like Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, WeChat and more by being able to connect with their loved ones on a regular basis. Gone are the days when the only option available to connect with an overseas friend or relative was either via writing a letter or making an ISD call. While letters would take ages to reach, an ISD call was an expensive affair.

However, technological developments have simplified lives to a great extent for people who wish to be in constant touch with someone abroad. “My boyfriend is in Australia, and I usually depend on Whatsapp and Viber for our conversations. While Whatsapp facilitates texting and sending pictures and videos, I use Viber to make voice calls. The best part of all this is that it is very economical. All you have to pay for is the Internet, which is not much, so it’s a big convenience,” declares Delhi-based Purnima Gureja, who works with a private firm.

Skype’s the limit
While Gureja mainly employs Viber and Whatsapp for her use, Skype is reserved for days when she wants to see her friend. “I call it the Skype date. Since we can’t meet, living in two countries, we Skype every 3-4 days and call it a date. With that facility, I can see him and it’s as good as sitting across a table with him,” she asserts. And for people, who don’t prefer the video chat medium, other options are available as well, like Kusumita Das, a media professional, uses (a service that helps you call any mobile or landline at low rates) to speak to her fiancé, who is currently in Japan.

“I talk with my fiancé every day using It’s cheap and costs just 60 paise a minute. The best thing about this service is the person you are calling doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet. You can call any mobile phone number or landline,”she informs.

The elderly are increasing adopting the technology as an easy and economical medium to connect with loved ones

Everyone can be tech-savvy
Couples are not the only ones, who have been successful in realising the worth of technology when it comes to being an aid in relationships. It is also driving people to learn the nuances of Internet for the need of being connected. The trend has been particularly noticed among elderly citizens.

Dr Narendra Mokashi was grateful to Skype, when he got to know that his daughter, who is studying in Libya, has fractured her leg. “If we didn’t know how to operate Skype, we wouldn’t have been able to see her in that state. By seeing us on video chat, she felt good and even we were relieved,” he reveals.

The 71-year-old dentist was never technology-savvy. But, just to be able to connect with his daughter on a regular basis, he learnt to use the service of Skype. “I Skype with my daughter twice a week for at least an hour. It’s an excellent medium. Since she is also doing her dentistry, sometimes, we even discuss our cases on Skype.”

This only reiterates what an International report, titled The Strength of Internet Ties, authored by Barry Wellman, Jeffrey Boase, John B Horrigan and Lee Rainie had revealed in 2006: “Rather than supplanting contact with others, the Internet, fits into people’s lives and makes it easier to stay in touch.”

Maybe, it’s time to look at technological developments and the Internet as not something that is a world filled with geeks and Google-heads but an avenue to help build relationships.

Gaming helps too...
>> Technology has also made it possible to ensure that the fun factor doesn’t die in a long distance relationship. Challenge your partner’s intellect with games like Scramble and QuizCross, driving skills with Need For Pursuit, or beat each other on Monopoly or Uno. To keep track on how you are doing, overall, or to remember important dates, take help of apps like Kahnoodle. Most of these games are available for free on Android as well as iOs platform.

How to bridge the gap
Like any other relationship, the foundations of a long distance relationship are the same — trust, communication and knowing your expectations from the relationship. The difference being that a long distance requires more coordination to ensure that basic things don’t change. There’s no guarantee it will work forever, but you can keep a few things in mind while in a long distance relationship.

* Be aware of your expectations: You should know what you are committing to before making it. Are you in it for a long time? How long do you think you can continue with this? Talk to each other about your expectations from the relationship before you take the plunge.
* Trust is the key: Before you decide on a long distance relationship, it’s important to know whether or not you can trust your partner. You can’t be grilling your partner with all sorts of questions because he/she went to a party with some friends of opposite sex. The same holds true with parents and children too. 
* Creativity matters: After a point, long distance phone calls and video calls may become boring. If you end up talking about the same things every day, you will soon start hating each other. It’s important to spice up talk by perhaps watching a film together and chatting. 
* Avoid a guilt trip: It’s not easy being away from your loved ones, but when you say “I miss you”, avoid making the other person feel guilty for being away from you. Do not bring it up such that it pressurises the other person.
* Don’t be jealous: Once away from your partner, you will be looking for new friends and ways to fill in the social void in your life. You can’t be jealous of your partner’s social life. You have to give the other person space and make your own.
* Co-ordinate: To ensure that it runs smoothly, learn to coordinate each other — what is the time when you two can talk, how long can you talk for and so on.

— Ameeta Sanghavi Shah, Integrated Psychotherapist and Mind Coach 

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