Does technology take away or add to longing, which is the key ingredient in romance?

“Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great,” is what French memoirist Roger de Bussy-Rabutin supposedly said at some point in his life in the 17th century.

Many Indian saints, including Narada, has spoken extensively about love and the pinnacle of love, in his Narada Bhakti Sutra or the aphorisms of love. Both Rabutin and Narada have spoken about love and longing, how one keeps the other alive.

If a decade ago, people waited by their landlines for a call, they now keep watch over the “last seen at” space over WhatsApp, wait for that “ping” from their loved ones or a least a reply to theirs.

Once you have a phone number, the object of your affection is only a second away from communication, but does that make the romance bloom or wither away like roses that fuel businesses world-wide on Valentine’s Day?

“I think it takes away and gives something more,” says author Milan Vohra, India’s first M&B writer. “Longing can be built through connectivity because a text message or a WhatsApp message can help build up the romance, until the couple meets. And if one of them is busy, they can simply communicate that and keep the chemistry going by, say putting up a link to a song or an indirect status message that the other knows is meant for him or her.”

At the same time, unrequited love can suffer more through technology because if someone is not texting or replying to your messages, or hasn’t been in touch, how long can you fool yourself? Earlier if you left a message over a landline, you could still hope. Technology is a good thing to have when you are in a relationship because it helps you in stay in touch in your own way, but when you are not, it can make the agony worse because you see that the one you love is online but not communicating with you.”

And it need not be that way, feels Rajat Rao, who has developed a dating application, Krush which helps you find a partner through mutual friend lists on social networks but retains your anonymity even if it’s one-sided.

“The way I see it, technology can make it easier for people to approach each other. For the longest time, there was a hunter-hunted mentality towards men. But most of the times guys are scared to approach women and women get frustrated when the man they like doesn’t approach them. Krush eliminates the fear of rejection and connects you to people whom you may be interested in, who, being mutual friends are just one degree away. I am an optimist in this respect,” he says.

Newly-married Pallavi Joshi Uniyal, who is celebrating her first anniversary on Valentine’s Day, agrees, though she feels that couples need to exercise some restraint over their accessibility to their partner.

“When you need the other person, he or she is just a phone call away. But many times couples suffocate each other by constantly chatting or talking,” says the Art of Living instructor.

“We have all grown up watching the bond that our parents have and sometimes expect that our relationship be like that. But couples in their generation spent more time with each other than with gadgets. Today couples, even when together, spend more time with their gadgets. Couples should focus on their personal goals rather than on each other. Then instead of crossing paths at some point, they will move together.”

But can technology ever take away, at least until we have holograms or virtual reality (maybe not even then), the joy and contentment there is in the presence of another?

“However much we progress in technology, which has brought men and women closer, it is only real expression that is intimate. Real expression requires the other person’s presence, sound, touch and gaze,” says music composer/director B. Prasanna.

“It is easier to connect and express online, where distance or geography doesn’t matter and one can connect and share anytime and that has brought people closer. But true intimacy happens in the presence of the other. When there is longing, even technology isn’t enough because only presence can fulfil it. So technology and longing are mutually exclusive.”