Dating before WhatsApp, Tinder and Instagram

Contrary to popular belief, dating was actually much easier then


By Manal Faheem Khan

KARACHI: “Acha I’m leaving Manal. Lock the door,” announced my mom as she headed for the main door. “Okay mom, see ya,” I replied very casually, as if I hadn’t been planning this moment for the last 102,938,833,748 hours. Not only did I grow up at a time where there were limited means of communicating with people, I also grew up with a very strict mother. This is why I had to wait till she left the house to call my boyfriend (let’s just call him J).

Waiting for my mom to leave was just level one of this game. The second level required avoiding J’s mother as well. Since there were no cell phones, or at least not every 15-year-old had their own phone, I had to call on his landline and hope that he would answer and not his mom. “Hello,” answered J’s mom and instinctively, I slammed the phone shut on her face. Close call. Thankfully there were no CLIs (Calling Line Identity) back then so I didn’t have to worry about her knowing which number I had called from and then calling me back on it.

One would assume that dating must have been difficult back when technology was just about to explode to unimaginable proportions, but it wasn’t. For instance, WhatsApp might have made it easier for people to connect instantly but we also didn’t have to deal with the dreaded ‘seen’ option. Earlier, there was no pressure to respond to each other right away, since we didn’t have the means in the first place. So nobody fought over being DR-ed (delivered and read) and people could ignore each other peacefully.

We also didn’t excessively stalk each other. No Instagram meant that we weren’t counting each other’s likes and dislikes and checking which girls, or boys, our significant others were spending time staring at. The only time we got jealous is when our SOs would sit next to some other girl in class.

Also, you could only date boys in your school (unless you had very ‘chill’ parents) because that was the only place you met boys in the first place. The party culture was restricted to the ‘burger school’ kids so you couldn’t meet new guys at parties. There was no Tinder so you couldn’t meet people in your area and meeting people online was always a risk (what if they turned out to be stalkers or killers?) So you settled for the best possible option in your school.

There was another great advantage of being technology-less back then. You could break up with someone without having to delete their existence from your social media. Facebook didn’t send reminders of your ‘memories’ of how you and XYZ were so happy. You didn’t have to feel embarrassed when your ex refused to delete your lovey-dovey messages from his/her FB wall/Insta account. You could actually keep your dating life private without it being broadcast to everyone.

I can keep listing ways in which dating was so much better back then but of course, I can’t deny that things are much easier now. For instance, earlier you had to rely on your SO to pick/drop you so imagine if a date was going badly, or you had a fight with them and wanted to go home right away, you would have to wait for your boyfriend to drop you back because he’s your ride. Plus, you can’t call the driver cause he would report your activity to your parents. But now, you can simply call a Careem and walk away from a shit date without having to wait for anyone. And there are so many other examples. You can WhatsApp call them if your outgoing is off. You can send audio notes if you miss them. You can stay connected with them when they’re away on a vacation/for studies.

But perhaps technology has done something bigger than that. Because of technology, people suddenly became connected to ideas and cultures from all around the world. That’s probably why parents were much more strict about dating back then whereas the younger generation is much more open-minded because of all the exposure that they have. In the pre-technology days, parents would marry their daughters off if they found out about their boyfriends. Now, they’ll shrug their shoulders and meet the boy instead.