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Google Wonder Land

A healthy, happy New Year to all our readers! We are into the second day of 2015 and hopefully you will have recovered sufficiently from recent excesses – and already broken a few of those resolutions – to devote a few moments to this page.

As time flies by at ever-increasing speed, ‘moments’ become as precious as my seasonal wishes – ‘health’ and ‘happiness’. It may therefore be no coincidence that Google has revealed that “what is Ebola” and “what is love” were the most asked questions of 2014.

Science is always easier to handle than matters of the heart, so I shall deal with the virus originally named after a river in the former Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, first.

In layman’s terms, Ebola is a highly infectious viral disease now believed to be carried by fruit bats, which are immune to it and pass it on to other animals living in the wild.

Humans become infected by close contact with these animals, still an important source of food in many parts of Africa, and any form of exchange of bodily fluids causes the rapid proliferation we have witnessed over the past months.

As long as there is no tried-and-tested antidote, a slow and painful death is almost certain – to date there have been almost 20,000 recorded cases in Liberia, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone alone with a death toll of 7,500 rising daily.

This has now become the worst epidemic the world has faced since the plague during the middle ages. Whereas the ‘black death’ ravaged most of Europe, Ebola has, with a few exceptions, been confined to West Africa, allowing us to view it as something unreal, far removed from our daily lives.

This really makes my blood boil. If there was ever a case screaming out for the full mobilisation of all global resources involving every international organisation ranging from the WHO, UNESCO and UNICEF to the OAU’s standing military force, this must be it.

Yet all I read about are pitiful numbers of well-meaning, charity-funded private volunteers receiving standing media ovations upon departure for the Dark Continent and the odd headline as a returning doctor or medical worker is ushered into a high-tech quarantine facility in Britain or the US.

I very much fear that our so-called ‘enlightened’ society will only really wake up when the potential threat of Ebola, already causing unimaginable suffering on distant shores, arrives in our own homes and we realise that cancelling that dream holiday to the Gambia is not an appropriate reaction.

But enough doom and gloom – we’ll leave that to American ‘preppers’ busy spending mega-bucks on condos within heavily fortified former missile bases in anticipation of the total breakdown of their already badly fractured social fabric.
Let me turn to our second Google question instead: what is love?

Is the popularity of such an enquiry a sad testament symptomatic of modern society or are we dealing with a conundrum which humans have wrestled with throughout the ages?

Increased leisure, social, geographic and financial mobility have certainly turned Cupid’s arrow into a more sophisticated, often barbed projectile.

In the old days, life was shorter and definitely simpler, punctuated by the need to sleep, work and putting food on the table. You married the girl next door, had children and were rarely afforded the luxury of time to wonder what the point of it all was – or so I believe.

Today’s frenzy of social media affording everyone a soap box only seems to have helped emphasise the fundamental difference between men and women, perhaps prompting the legalisation and subsequent boom in same-sex marriages.

There are also new rules of ‘engagement’ spawned by the Twitter, Skype, texting and Facebook naughties. Apparently it is a complete no-no for women to initiate a ‘relationship’ via any of the above mentioned mediums.

Vice versa, the older you are the longer you should wait before responding to a text or message. For example, a 40-plus-year-old woman should wait a day to reply, not counting weekends (you are busy!). Never double text – write twice before he responds once, and always come back with fewer words than he’s texted to you.

Answering “Sure, that would be great. Work is manic, but I am free this Thursday night and all weekend and I know a really cool restaurant” is a completely unacceptable reply to “Do you want to go out sometime?”

New rules also prohibit virtual contact after midnight, overly verbose emails launching into verse, or even worse, attaching relationship quizzes. Furthermore you should realise that the premise of social platforms such as Facebook is to let people into your world – and that means giving them access to what you are up to at all times.

If you like the ‘look’ of someone wait a while before accepting a friend request, don’t ‘stalk’, posting on their wall, constantly ‘liking’ their status or sharing every move of your possibly mundane life with all and sundry.

Changing your relationship status as soon as you are getting to ‘know’ someone, de-friending or even blocking exes as well as posting unrealistic pictures of yourself are additional online actions considered to be faux pas.

Last but not least, there is rejection. Social networking means that the end of a relationship can become a very open event adding public humiliation to private anguish.

Do not resort to retaliation via angry texts – de-friend, unfollow, block and delete. Don’t show the virtual community how upset you are – get even by meeting someone better.

Having just re-read the above, I am realising that I am guilty of most of the ‘sins’ of the ‘new rules’ – which might explain why I have been single for the past 15 months!

Other than that, the virtual world should remain exactly that – a fun place for frivolous interaction while hands and feet turn into ice blocks.

On that note I am off and out, safe in the knowledge that the likelihood of running into any ‘wild animals’, virtual or otherwise, on the streets of sleepy wintertime Alvor is extremely remote!

By Skip Bandele
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Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 15 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.