Instead, the banter encompasses social media platforms or dating apps the youngsters found each other on, and how they proceeded to get to know each other. It might be hard to go on Twitter or Instagram today and not find yuppies and prospects dropping phrases like “Slide into my DM” when communicating with each other. Sliding into an individual’s DM simply means, dropping them a direct mail – DM for short, in Twitter and Insta speak.
It’s interesting how many platforms have engineered the channels of engagement between users. Conventional dating apps thrust people into the deep end of the ocean, and in an ensuing human roulette of sorts, one’s pick-up value is determined, to a large extent, by his or her photoshopping skills, reflected in a series of display pictures or even one’s ability to prowl the internet in pursuit of literary, cinematic or pop-cultural references that would further cement one’s brand value.
That’s as far as the free services go. Many users learned the hard way how apps such as these monetise their services. Developers know how users can be teased into believing their strike rates can be improved by adopting premium services. So, they have introduced packages that allow users additional swipes, above their default settings. Some options let users go into cappuccino mode, essentially, a search engine optimisation that allows profiles of paid users to rise to the top, almost like foam in a latte, guaranteeing increased visibility, and maybe, a lucky right swipe.
But don’t let technicalities throw you off. For those with the requisite social media skills, both Twitter and Instagram have proven to be fertile hunting grounds. The platforms, while offering outsiders a window to your world, and vice-versa, have features to limit or open up how individuals communicate with you. The etiquette here dictates that liking, commenting, tweeting and re-tweeting are kosher. But sliding into someone’s DM is the tricky part. Unless you’re approaching someone with a business proposal, sending someone a direct message is frowned upon – so much so that popular Tweeple and Instagrammers have now included a ‘No DMs’ clause as part of their bios. And with good reason too - an unfiltered DM is the equivalent of putting up your email in public and inviting everyone to lob anything from bouquets to hand grenades at you.
Speaking of which, it was bang in the middle of the pandemic, that those hooked on OTT got their first dose of Indian Matchmaking, a documentary that attempted to make sense of the big fat Indian wedding. The series invited heavy criticism on account of its supposed whitewashing of Indian families. The show was conspicuous by the absence of couples who identified as Christians, Muslims, or Dalits, and was even called out for its fixation on physical attributes such as the height of an individual, as well as the question of caste, which is one of the big questions, that no one wants to address headlong.
The specifics of online courtship and the downside of dating in the time of COVID might seem trivial when one considers the developments on the national front. One month after the introduction of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, or the love jihad law, 35 people have been arrested, and a dozen FIRs have been registered in the state. In Madhya Pradesh last week, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet gave the green light to the Freedom of Religion Act 2020, its own iteration of the love jihad law, which makes it the second state in India to do so.
And this happens to be the duality of the Indian experience – marked by a reliance on not just cutting edge-technologies that help bring people together, but also on medieval practices that keep them apart.