Some 20 years ago, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks intoxicated us with their warm cyber love story You’ve Got Mail. The romantic comedy, which set a benchmark for modern romance was one of its kind, centred around a cyber love story. In these 20 years we have moved on from chat rooms to Twitter and the clattering of desktop and laptop keys has been replaced by gently touch on a smart phone. And Tinder has revolutionised how we look at dating and courtship.

So, does Internet romance with an anonymous person still hold the same charm of the 90s? In such edgy times, do we even dare to respond to a “Hi” from an unfamiliar source, on our instant messenger? Romantic advances from an unknown today, tend to scare us more than giving a thrill. Wasn’t world a much simpler place when Kathleen and Joe could just open their hearts up to each other, without being afraid of a third person snooping through their inboxes? Alas! Internet love isn’t that innocent anymore…

You’ve Got Mail is the story of Kathleen Kelly, who runs an independent bookstore called The Shop Around The Corner in New York City and Joe Fox, who owns a chain of bookstores called Fox Books.

As fate would have it, Kelly and Fox despise each other in real life, for having different ideologies about business, customer relations, etc. But they come across each other in a chat room under the guise of “Shopgirl” and “NY152”, which eventually leads them to exchange emails and having chats.

If you watch the film today, the way these two throw their caution to the wind and pour their hearts to each other feels outlandish. Especially, when Gmail recently admitted that third-party app developers could be opening and checking on the contents of our emails, apart from robots. Also, we have long left the anonymity of 90s chat rooms, along with the innocent notions about cyber love.

In today’s virtual world, an anonymous identity is more synonymous with online harassment and trolling. We would rather outrage in 280 characters to the world, than pour our hearts out to a mysterious suitor. What has changed, perhaps, is our perception of the Internet. Yes, there were miscreants in the virtual space even in the 90s, but there was a naivety in approach towards the Internet among the general populations. There was an eagerness to just discover the medium and its infinite possibilities.

I know of so many people from the 90s, who would befriend utter strangers on the Internet and just built up friendships out of thin air.

In twenty years since You’ve Got Mail, we have become a much more aggressive society and miscreants have figured out how to misuse the medium better. A romance like the one depicted in the film certainly looks scary in today’s context. No one would suggest a girl, or even a boy (considering the number of fake profiles by the name of “Angel Priya” in India) to risk getting romantically involved with a stranger.

Watching You’ve Got Mail today is like looking at a much simpler time. When the idea of a cyber romance with a stranger was a plot for a rom-com. Today this would make into a suspense-thriller or even a horror film. It is disturbing how we dare not even put such content in fiction today, from the fear of misleading youth. In today’s world, Kelly and Fox would rather remain strangers than entertain the risks which come today with the prospects of online romance.

Picture Credit : Warner Bros.

Also Read : Internet And Women – A Boon OR A Bane?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own

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