As I was reading The Way We Live Now – The Overextended Family, my thoughts kept wandering back to 2001. The year when my husband and I “met.”
What started as a random e-mail conversation connecting us through the intertubes halfway across the world, turned into a “virtual” courtship that resulted in an online wedding and a lifelong relationship.
Who would’ve thought that in those Skype-less days, when digital cameras were just being launched and Web cams were quite the luxury item, that we would have managed to forge such a strong bond through emoticons embedded sporadically in daily e-mail threads? As Orenstein says in her article, “there is something exquisitely intimate about the disembodied voice” — conversing via e-mails allowed us to be honest, share our inner-most thoughts, express strong opinions and just take the time to get to know each other. We exchanged photos off and on, but there was no Facebook or Twitter to keep each other updated every minute. Although we bridged the physical distance between us via two, sometimes three, e-mails a day, we relished the freedom that this 7807.6-mile online relationship provided. For a year and a half we lived on opposite ends of the day-night cycle, yet were completely in tune with each other’s worlds — his in San Jose, Calif.; mine in Lucknow, India.
By the time I arrived in the States to get my master’s in journalism, we had met in person once — for three days — followed by a year of e-mails, hazy webcam photos, mini-video snippets and occasional phone calls. The only difference now was that we were in the same country (still different time zones) — we kept the communication channels open, the only way we knew how: through the Internet. And when we moved in together two years later, that’s still how we communicated.
“Dinner is ready,” I would IM him from the living room and he would appear from the bedroom a minute later. Most of our in-person verbal fights would get resolved over e-mail or Google talk the day after (sometimes we still take that route). We hardly ever called each other unless it was an emergency.
Now each of us has an iPhone – the “always-on” device. I text him to pick me up from the bus stop; we send pictures of “events” during lunch; we share videos. Our lives, although separate for the eight-to-nine hours at the workplace, still seem connected. He answers some of my question of the day on Facebook prompting extended conversations over dinner sometimes. (Yes, we have a lot of those face-to-face talks, in case you were wondering.) But we still don’t use the phone to call each other.
Our friends don’t understand how we operate. Sometimes I don’t either. But, I do think that technology has afforded us the opportunity to be with each other, to know each other and to relish each other in ways that couldn’t have happened otherwise.
Sometimes, communication technology can intensify closeness in a way a talk on the couch can’t.
We found comfort in words that appeared on the screen, in pictures that froze a moment in time, in tidbits of our daily lives captured by smiley faces. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve fought, we’ve loved. What started as a random e-mail conversation, has turned out to be an intertubal, albeit real, connection for life.