alexa ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, and the joy of having total strangers for friends - Daily Nation

‘Me and Mrs Jones’, and the joy of having total strangers for friends

Wednesday September 7 2011

 

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

You all know the popular golden oldie, Me and Mrs Jones. You hear it on FM stations all the time.

Me and Mrs Jones is not the kind of song your bishop or sheikh would approve of because it describes an extramarital affair between a man and his lover, Mrs Jones.

As the song goes, the guy and Mrs Jones “meet every day at the same café.  Six-thirty…”

The song was originally performed by Billy Paul in 1972, and was Number One for three weeks.

We bring up Me and Mrs Jones because there is something very old fashioned about that affair with Mrs Jones.

If you read the papers, you would know why. Between the Daily Nation, The Standard, and The Star, since the beginning of the year I have counted more than 30 articles and letters lamenting how new technologies like cellphones, applications like short electronic messages (SMS), and Facebook are wreaking havoc on the 10 Commandments.

Advertisement

These technologies, according to grievances in the local media and almost everywhere else in the world, have turned very many otherwise honest wives into Mrs Joneses, who are flirting with some bloke over their cellphones or Facebook message inbox.

And of course, there is no man who has access to a computer or cellphone who is not cheating on his partner.

Then, related to this, are also the endless articles telling us how we should not befriend strangers on Facebook.

It is true that new technologies are disrupting relationships and families, but we need to draw the right lessons from the pain.

The reasons they are doing so is because they are efficient and have reduced the cost of doing business.

The same efficiencies and savings that computers, cellphones, and social media have brought to businesses, they have also brought to social relationships.

In 1972, Mrs Jones boyfriend would have to catch a bus and cross town, then head to the café.

If he were the one paying for the coffee, he would need a few shillings in his pocket.

Mrs Jones would have to tell her husband a convincing lie about why she needed to leave home as darkness was approaching and go to town at 6pm.

Today, the boyfriend would not have to make the trip across town and risk getting mugged.

Nor would Mrs Jones have to pull a fast one on her hubby. They would flirt, sit in their sofas at home, and offend God using SMS.

They would be breaking their marriage vows and likely end in Hell, but they would both have reduced their risks and the cost of cheating as neither would have to spend money on transport and coffee.

Which brings us to the criticism about befriending strangers on Facebook. I think that criticism disregards the fact that technology has truly democratised friendship.

In the past, only a few who were privileged and travelled far from their villages and towns and went abroad met strangers and expanded their circle of friends.

Now a chap who has never left Nyeri can be buddies with another fellow in remote Siberia. All they need is access to the Internet.

So, part of the elite resentment toward social media could be because it has allowed the masses to also meet strangers, an experience that was enjoyed mostly by the middle class.

In addition, one of the “uncoolest” things is having to carry all your close friends whom you meet daily, your relatives, your wife and children, and your pals at church and befriend them all over a second or third time on Facebook!

You can have a few of them, but surely they should be just a small part of your social media world.

The beauty with friends in digital space is that unlike the ones who live next door, it reduces the burden of obligation.

You don’t have to go to their children’s birthday parties or weddings. You just click a button and send them a card.

You don’t have to give them a lift to work in the morning when you are in a bad mood and not interested in making small talk.

And for conservative patriarchal society, unless they deny their daughters and wives cellphones, even if they lock them behind walls, technology will still give the women freedom to be part of the wider world.