“The mobile phone makes it a little easier to facilitate an arranged marriage at a distance,” Wei said. She discovered instances where people used mobile phones to get to know partners vetted and approved by their parents. Mobile phones could influence the trend toward relaxing traditions on the amount of contact permitted before marriage, Wei said.
The research found several instances where mobile phones played a role in romance:
- In arranged marriages: A young man was given some time alone with a prospective bride-to-be and he had one question for her: “What is your mobile number?”
- Between working couples: One research participant often called or sent text messages to his wife, also living in Bangalore. If he lost his mobile phone he would be scared, he said, not because he had lost a phone but because he had lost this connection with his wife.
- Traditional etiquette: Indian mobile phone companies typically bill the person making the call. Men will occasionally ignore or hang up on a girlfriend and then call her right back, a modern instance of picking up the tab.
- Domestic spats: One partner might deliberately ignore calls to punish the other, or one might become angry when the other wasn’t answering. In one instance a participant threatened his partner that he would not answer her calls for a month.