Last week, I overheard a conversation at the salon: a father-of-four revealed his Costco virginity to his bemused hairstylist, who then went on to sermonize the dad about the wonders of Costco. ‘You will never run out of diapers or garbage bags’ was one of his more compelling arguments! In fact, I have seen the passion for the bulk-wholesaler transcend all ages; my two-year-old niece has managed to teach herself to write and spell by drawing the alphabets, C.O.S.T.C.O. (gazing at stray coffee table catalogues) and when asked what her favourite weekend activities are, she lists shopping at Costco, playtime with mommy and daddy and music class (in that order). Heck, she even remembers which train station to get off at to go to her beloved store.
I can understand the appeal for the bulk wholesaler (the ginormous floor space aka play area for my niece and the low price per unit for the hairstylist) but I, like many others, have grown to loathe the tiresome activity of traditional shopping. Sifting through countless shop inventory (for the right fit, size, specifications, quantity, colour, etc.), enduring the magnifying harshness of trial-rooms and, finally, distinguishing our ‘want’ from our ‘need’ for the item before outlasting the meandering cashier line-ups. The only time I may be convinced to visit a traditional brick-and-mortar is when the words ‘sale (preferably ‘sample sale’)’ or ‘50% or more discount’ are emboldened outside it.
Thus, many have grown to abhor ‘spending a day at the mall’ however, these folks are still harbouring shopaholic-ism that is being goaded by that classic denouement of commerce and machine: e-commerce sites. It is an indescribable feeling being able to order a form-fitting dress whilst still in pyjamas (anything to evade those treacherous trial-room realities). In fact, online shopping is the most potent catalyst to businesses’ surging sales volumes today. The Chinese Annual Singles’ Day is the “world’s biggest online shopping day” that overwhelmingly outshines Black Friday. Who was responsible for this sales revolution? None other than the largest e-commerce site in the world, Ali Baba Corp. Everything is a fingertip ‘tap’ or ‘click of a button’ away i.e. it can be said that the world is quite figuratively at our fingertips. The once dainty fingertip has been accosted with an unyielding amount of power to become the mighty fingertip. It actually bothers me now if I see long lineups outside malls on Black Friday. I roll my eyes ever so slightly and wish that everyone would just get on that fingertip empowerment bandwagon.
We must then be reminded that ‘all that glitters is not gold,’ and, that ‘with great power comes’…well, plenty of other things. Every facet of our life, that we once imagined as impossible to automate, is being reinvented by the ‘fingertip e-novation.’ Fingertip dating or the ‘right and left swipe’ movement on the hugely popular dating app, Tinder, has shaken up the dating world schema. Online dating had readily existed prior to Tinder, yet, somehow it did not have the game-changing effect on our lives that the mobile application has had. The trickle-down effects of Tinder are interesting to say the least.
Today’s world is a zany place; for one, our everyday vernacular is being encroached with phrases such as ‘netflix and chill’ and an acceptable form of communication is through double-meaning emojis (the eggplant emoji anyone?). Another such urban dictionary entrant, ‘sexting’ has become a commonplace practice today. In fact, it might be more practical to classify the stages of dating in terms of first, second and third text rather than drawing the subtle comparison to baseball bases. ‘Sexting’ one another has led to an ever-increasing problem as discussed in length by comedian Aziz Ansari, in many of his latest stand-up routines. Ansari shares his struggles as a single man seeking intimacy in the post-Tinder world, shining a light on impolite women equipped with sassy replies and their poor textual etiquette (the use of the singular alphabet, ‘k’ as a valid response). He theorizes that the unfathomable ubiquity of ‘dick pics’ may have soured women. As such, it is curious to examine what were the mysterious events leading up to the acceptable trend of sending out a digitized genitalia into the web.
“Even though its anonymous, it’s still ominous,” – Daniel Solove
Many bars and restaurants are polluted with the sight of large groups of friends or smaller clusters of couples hunched over their devices. A particularly insignificant yet telling scene in the buddy-cop comedy film, 21 Jump Street, involves the older Jonah Hill (who goes undercover as a high-school student), actually calling a high-school girl who, upon receiving his call, is genuinely shocked that someone would call rather than text! Thus, an angle to consider in solving our mystery is the comfort afforded to one under the veil of a dimly lit screen. The digital screen interaction alleviates the demands of social rigours especially in romantic settings (since the initial romantic stages can be filled with awkwardness). It is then that same shield that may have sparked a tenacity in people which is unprecedented; a popular and almost viral Instagram account aptly christened, @TinderNightmares sheds a light on this aspect of human behaviour. Disillusioned Tinder users post their most disturbing yet painfully hilarious DM (direct message) exchanges. Face-to-face interaction, albeit tedious, at least comes with the filtration prowess of reigning in outlandish behaviour (mostly), but in the world of DMs, anything goes. The purported anonymity goads us to ludicrous lengths.
One could argue that chat-rooms or chatting software from back in the day (MSN Messenger, etc.) may have had the same effect but, somehow, dick pics did not become the norm then. Maybe back then cameras weren’t as readily available or because photos needed to be developed by another stranger, men were deterred to broadcast their private parts willy-nilly (pun partially intended). Perhaps, the world has also changed in the last two decades; we live in a world where mastering our 10-30-and-60-second pitch is key and, we are led to believe that things need to be instantaneous. Retail therapy provides instant gratification and romantic entanglements need to be instantly satiated as well. We are taught to refrain from beating around the bush (pun again partially intended) and get to our core message faster. Men and women, alike, recognize the end goal from the app: intimacy, and, both undertake the conscious decision to waste no time coaxing or writing sonnets to achieve that result.
Now, throw in a readily available camera and the mind of a not-so-gifted wordsmith who would still like to get to the same point and voila, the photographs of genitalia captured on ubiquitous smart phones become the norm! There is no secondary meaning to a photograph of one’s intimate body part anyway so it serves the purpose perfectly. Case resolved!
Love it or hate it, Tinder is the new norm. Recently, when speaking to a heartbroken female friend who was about to re-enter the landmine-filled dating-scape, I was shocked to find that she was more upset at the prospect of joining Tinder than at the actual breakup. Another tell-tale sign that the times really have changed is the rap lyrics’ evolution from themes of ‘growing up in the ghetto’ to those of ‘snapchat photo requests for female body parts.’ Romance norms are changing and we might not be better off by it as a human race.
The oversimplification of our quotidian may have an eerie similarity to a certain Orwellian dystopia – the one of simplistic human thought. Instead of a niche elite class controlling us, are we letting technology get the better of us? Do we really need instant gratification for our shopping needs as well as our love life? It is said that ‘the best things in life take time’ (or something like that) thus, perhaps, we need to bring back the complexity in our lives. We need to welcome those sonnet-writers in order to tenderize i.e. slow-down the process of intimacy. We need our personal flairs to fill the world and make it more colorful as a result.
The greatest pieces of literature were written to immortalize loved ones but sadly, the atrocious Tinder DMs cannot be deemed to be of the same pedigree. It is time to root out instant gratification for a more nuanced selection process for both shopping (it will surely help rein in personal debt issues that many of us face), as well as, in the art of seducing a romantic partner (so that humanity is able to produce a tear-jerking sequel to The Bard’s famous sonnets).
Sadia Sarwar is an upcoming author with plenty of opinions and rarefied tastes. Follow her on @sadiamhsarwar.