Monday 24 October 2016

Getting to know you - well, not really

John Masterson

Published 29/02/2016 | 02:30

I am surrounded by people who think that text and WhatsApp is an acceptable way to communicate. They will soon forget what the human voice sounds like. I barely tolerate it with busy people I know, but with people with whom I only have a passing acquaintance it drives me mad.

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"Getting to know you, getting to know all about you, Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me." I am not courting, or sexting, but it was a lot easier when Julie Andrews was singing about it. Those were the days when people actually met people and got to know them. Relationships were built in real time doing real things.

Some years back I was on a press trip to Canada. As is usual on those events there are about ten people who travel together. Alliances usually form between people who get on well together. You look out for each other. You keep seats for each other. And you generally make life easy for each other. On this trip there was a very nice English woman and for some reason we got on like a house on fire. I mean nothing more than got on well. Both of us were in happy relationships.

On the way back on the plane we sat together and compared our iPods. To our horror and delight we discovered that in musical taste we had absolutely nothing in common. We talked about how important a part music played in our lives. Were we single we would have fallen at that hurdle fairly quickly. Were we texting we wouldn't even have seen the hurdle.

You used to be able to go into someone's house where you could see what they were reading and what CDs they had on their shelves. As we enter an increasingly virtual world these possessions, and indeed shelves, are becoming a thing of the past. To find the key to someone's soul you would need to hack into their computer phone. You would probably know more about the person if you could see who each of you followed on Twitter than from a visit to their living-room.

I am given to understand that, these days, the early stages of relationships begin by text. There is a whole new set of manners about what to text, how often, and so on. Now, as a medium this would suit me down to the ground as I am certain I am much more attractive in the written word than in real life. So I would be fine so long as I never had to actually meet the person.

Texting can have a curious intimacy about it that is completely at odds with the real state of the relationship. People fall in love online and then make very stupid decisions. We read of people who leave their partner for the person they have been 'chatting' with only to discover very rapidly that this was not a good idea and the relationship has a zero chance of success and never would have got out of the starting blocks if they had met in real life.

I long for a phone that only does phone calls.

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