Why fear love in the time of viral fever?

I have been quite startled to discover many of my friends, who are at least a generation older than millennials, post incredibly personal stuff about their relationships going awry.



by

Sushmita Bose

Published: Wed 9 May 2018, 9:48 PM

Last updated: Wed 9 May 2018, 11:51 PM

The recently-released findings of a comprehensive survey are being flagged by 'Lifestyle-section' opinion pieces the world over, and passed around furiously on social media. Yes (you probably guessed right!), this "relationships" survey tracks the mood (and, therefore, intent) of millennials; a mood that, to my mind, is also having a rub-off effect on those who are not actually "millennials" but living in an age dominated by the ethos of a younger lot born (the survey's core group) circa 1989-90 (I know there's a whole lot of debate about millennial timelines, but let's stick to this since it's the most topical of the lot).
The survey, titled the Next Steps project, has been engineered by the UK's Department for Education (now managed by University College London, according to The Daily Telegraph, and has factored in points of view of at least 16,000 millennials.
Cut to the chase: the bottom line points to a "fear of intimacy" propelled by social media.
While the writing has been on the wall for sometime now - notice that couple, sitting across the table at a fancy restaurant, far more keen to check out social media threads on smartphones than having a real conversation? - this one tracks real-time entrenchment of behavioural patterns that are now being boxed under the category of "social trend". The findings conclusively indicate that younger people are scared to commit, because relationships are increasingly being equated with viral grandstanding: if you fall from a carefully-cultivated pedestal, the cost of instant audience reviews is one step ahead of rottentomatoes.com.
Closer home, one of the respondents to a questionnaire we had sent out for a features story (on social media's impact on "image management" in millennial relationships) had told me that she's likely to check out a prospective beau (she was grappling with an arranged marriage situation) on his social media accounts before she meets him. She'd form an "informed opinion" based on his photos posted on Facebook/Instagram; and if he didn't live up to his photographic potential, there's a chance she'd say no to the alliance. I liked how unapologetic she was about her stand. "Some people may call me shallow - I don't give a damn." What if she kept on getting disappointed? "I'm happy to be single," she said, before clarifying, "It's not that I have anything against being married, but I'm not going to settle for a man who puts Photoshopped or tweaked images of himself on social media." Seriously? "Yep, it's my life, and social media has helped me set a ballpark: what I see should be what I get."
Another friend (a mid-80s' born, so going by certain parameters, also a millennial) had gone into a tizzy when she realised that her cousin brother and his wife were splitting - exactly two weeks after they posted photos of themselves cavorting around in a tropical resort. "Dude, their Instagram and Facebook pages had captions reading 'Fun with my forever love', and now they're getting a divorce!" she'd told me. "Relationships are so fake these days - I'm scared to get into one." Couldn't help agreeing.
I'd mentioned - at the outset of this column - that this is a trend consuming non-millennials as well. I have been quite startled to discover many of my friends, who are at least a generation older than millennials, post incredibly personal stuff about their relationships going awry. I even inboxed one of them (otherwise a perfectly genial man) to ask why he was washing dirty linen in public, and he said, "Because it's cathartic."
What are the chances of the woman he broke up with having common friends with him?
Plenty.
Let's face it, anyone - not just millennials - would be scared to "commit" if a relationship comes with an unwritten statutory warning: "We'll be loving in the times of viral fever - don't mind me if I pass on the bug."
Wouldn't you be better off playing Candy Crush instead?
- sushmita@khaleejtimes.com


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