Love in the time of Facebook
By the time the informal chat over lunch skidded to text messages and its many subtexts, I was half-dead. The heavy lunch had a lot to do with it, but so did my flagging interest in this person’s love life — or most people’s love life, for that matter. Unless it was unabashedly larded with salacious details, I say keep it close to your chest.
So it was that I missed most of the desultory details about the episodic amours of this young man, B, a mutual acquaintance, who was vacillating between two women. “It took her three hours to get back to me,” he whined of Girlfriend No. 2, “and said her phone had run out of juice.”
“Not a valid excuse,” pronounced my friend primly, a maiden aunt and likely expert on the complexities of young love, thanks to Koreanovelas.
Then my ears pricked up: He thought they should finally meet, and soon. Whaaaa? They have not met? I leaned over, fully awake by now. But how did you get to know her? I asked, despite an earlier resolve to keep my distance.
“Facebook. She looked good, so I said hello and friended her.”
They’ve been exchanging text messages for weeks now. He had sounded eager, like a frisky puppy, and she had asked if he was interested in her. He had said “yes,” and the amorous messages and PMs commenced in earnest. True, they’ve had a few spats online and via text, but that was better than being ghosted, he said.
At the same time, B was thinking that Girlfriend No. 1 might be a better match, and maybe they could also eyeball soon. And so on…
I was transfixed, amazed at how modern love and modern technology have upended everything I’ve known about romantic relationships. In my mother’s time, it was possible to go a-courting, have dates, get engaged, and finally become altar-bound — without so much as holding hands. How did it go, that old mantra drilled into us by anxious moms and stern nuns?
“Filipino custom: no touch.”
Now, in my time, and beyond the reach of neighborhood gossip, we had more leeway, thanks to the libertine atmosphere of a coed university. With its sparse crowd, the library provided good cover: behind thick tomes, couples held hands and exchanged steamy whispers. Hardwood tables with their thick legs camouflaged nervously jiggling knees and hands eagerly stealing across the beloved’s thigh.
Darkened movie houses also made possible the surreptitious hand-holding, the sweaty hand draped over virgin shoulders, the tentative kisses. If the guy was circumspect enough, he could graduate to Stage 2: get introduced to the parents over the Christmas holidays and to the entire clan the following year, if the relationship had lasted by then. Before they could set the altar date, the couple would have known by heart her Lolo Igme’s war exploits and his Auntie Baby’s legendary cures for just about every ailment.
Today’s technology, it seems, has provided shortcuts to the labyrinthine thrill of The Chase, and it is now possible to have loved, lost and moved on, without seeing the beloved beyond his or her profile picture.
Among the really besotted, technology, too, has bridged time and distance, making it possible for lovers to chat, tweet, text, Viber call or Facetime across several time zones without robbing a bank.
On the other hand, the many online distractions that technology has also made possible can drive couples apart as well, even as they sit face to face in a coffee shop sharing a meal and not much else. Heads bowed and glued to their phone screen, they scroll down for the latest text message, or swipe furiously to pile on game points. Could strangers be any more alienated?
As B pondered the dilemmas and tyranny of choice and vacillated between two women he had yet to meet, my mind was thinking of catfishing, false identities and fake pictures meant to entice the gullible, the predators out there posing as young people to groom little girls into sexual encounters. Then there are the news headlines about revenge porn…
Maybe Facebook has simplified the fascinating and sometimes exasperating dance to couplehood. Maybe it has speeded up the long circuitous trek to being a nation of two. Or given the shy, introverted type enough cover and courage to friend the girl of his dreams and Like her posts. The bold have meanwhile upped their game, sharing intimate shots to mark their territory. And maybe there is no singular path, no surefire formula or guarantees to finding The One.
In that languorous after-lunch chat, I realized that, when it comes to finding love—no matter how tenuous and ephemeral the connection forged—all bets are off. What an amazing, terrifying, uncharted territory love has become!
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Pennie Azarcon dela Cruz, 64, has been an Inquirer editor for some 28 years now.
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