Is smart the new social?
Remember those days when two people sat across from each other and struck up a conversation? Or those days when we all sat down as a family and had dinner and later watched Mind your language on TV and laughed uncontrollably
Remember those days when two people sat across from each other and struck up a conversation? Or those days when we all sat down as a family and had dinner and later watched Mind your language on TV and laughed uncontrollably and no one but us needed to know about it? It was called ‘Family time’. Or do you remember those days when friends come by your place and you visited theirs’ for a little heart-to-heart depending on how fond they were of you, rather than what mobile app they use.
Remember all those old days? Okay then, let’s fast forward 10 years and all that is history. Welcome to the ‘smart’ world and the smart world is inhibited by smart people. Smart people don’t have time for one conversation, they instead prefer several connections. If you are like me- a hopeful believer in the good old days of writing hand-written letters and sending love through hand-made greeting cards- you are doomed. You will cease to exist for the smart world you now live in. Let me illustrate this further by sharing by personal experience. As a child I had a pen-friend whom I’d write letters to twice a month. We became BFFs in no time.
The thrill of running to the postman, tearing open that envelope and reading that letter, re-reading it a second and a third time and then storing it in that old but charming wooden box-the thrill of all that was irreplaceable, simply priceless. That wooden box contained over 116 letters. Then one day I heard a knock on the door. It was technology.
The age of themail bestowed itself upon us. We welcomed the change as did everyone else. It was swift, you did not even have to move physically and we did not have to worry about long waiting periods. We wrote exactly four letters to each other in the next four years until that too stopped completely. So what happened there? Why did convenience make us drift away?
Years later when we met on Facebook, she saw my pictures and I saw her and we ceased being pen-friends. We were now Facebook Friends. We still couldn’t keep in touch and when I enquired why, what she said left me flabbergasted. ‘Well, you aren’t on Whatsapp and I don’t use Facebook regularly so...’I couldn’t come to terms with that statement back then but I get it now. ‘I use only WeChat,’ says one friend.
‘I’m a Snapchat user,’ says a colleague. ‘You will only find me on Facebook, don’t bother looking elsewhere,’ says an old classmate and ‘Don’t call me. I prefer Whatsapping,’ says everybody. Mobile apps now decide the friendships we can or cannot keep! Your bonding is no longer under your full control but is under the control of multiple apps you should be a user of to keep that bond going, if not going strong.
This is not just true about friendships but also true about romantic interests. This reminds me of what Drew Barrymore said about the then and the now of technology in the movie He is not just that into you. She says, ‘I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work so I called him at home and then he e-mailed me to my Blackberry and so I texted to his cell and then he e-mailed me to my home account and the whole thing just got out of control.
And I miss the days when you had one phone number and one answering machine and that one answering machine has one cassette tape and that one cassette tape either had a message from a guy or it didn't. And now you just have to go around
checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting.’
It couldn’t be put more aptly. Why is technology taking a toll on human emotions and bonding? Why are we together in a crowd or a chat-room and still feeling lonely and frustrated? Social media for example promotes the idea of making the world a smaller place, where everybody is accessible every time, where you will never be lonely(because there are so many people in tiny chat-boxes you can talk to) and can make more friends than you could have ever dreamed of a decade ago. It advertises quantity over quality- And we buy that! This images that social media gives out couldn’t get more hypocritical, for here’s the truth- We are all lonely. We are lonelier than we have ever been. We are connected via a network but are souls are disconnected. We are enabled to have great communication but poor conversation.
It is so, because conversation in its richest form can only happen when there is physical presence and eye-contact; where you don’t just read a 140 characters text but trytosenseeverythingabout the person- the tone, the pitch, the facial expressions and the body language. It is happening in real time and is most effective in avoiding miscommunication. Walking by the park one evening, I saw a young girl sitting on a bench near a pond and reading a book.
She had no devices plugged into her ears, no devices she was fiddling with. She was in all serenity reading a book. I looked at her the same way one would look at a dinosaur. The sight seemed weird. I couldn’t help but wonder- were people like the girl just a minor exception of an entire population of soon to be robots?
We are a generation of transition. We have seen and experienced both sides of the story- the one before Mark Zuckerberg’s creation and the one after. Think about what would happen of the generation that is born now. Would they have an understanding of human intimacies and sensitivities? (the best they would know of emotions will be via emoticons!) Would they ever pick up a comic digest on a train journey? Would they play hide and seek.
It breaks my heart to see a fifth grader carrying a smart phone and so engrossed in a game he’s playing, that he can’t seem to enjoy the waffles on the table.
A cartoon displayed in the Indian Cartoon Gallery, Bangalore gave me a sneak-peak into what is to become of the future generations. The cartoon depicts a father trying to grab his children’s attention to a snakes and ladders game. On the floor lie a kite and a chakri unattended. The children take a second away from the computer and look at their clueless. This is where we are soon headed. Babies now treat cell phones as toys and pacifying babies by handing them phones is now a routine, school are now tall buildings where the concept of a playground is alien, when you try to have a conversation with someone they aren’t even looking at you and are busy tapping their phones instead.
So, it is legit then that we are all soon to become robots. We won’t feel pain when pinched, we won’t laugh when ticked, we won’t marvel when we something beautiful. We will just be senders and receivers of information. We will give up living in the real moments of our lives to sharing pictures, liking comments and updating statuses. Yet after all that effort we will still go to bed lonely as ever. Why? Because the downside of all those connections is a solid misconception, rooted in our minds, that being alone means being lonely.
A second alone with you, hence makes you feel lonely and restless. Solitude should be practiced on purpose because if you can stay alone with yourself without picking up the phone every ten seconds is when you know for sure that you will never be lonely.
So before technology can start harming us more than it helps us, let’s act now. Take that baton back and do not let it control you. Marvel at a beautiful landscape, go for a run, try meeting people in person even if you can make time only for a few, play a game of Pictionary or Scrabble offline, take your kids to a park or a library, step out and check out the weather, look out of those phones and smile when someone smiles at you and live your live moment to the fullest.
Don’t get engrossed and lost in a virtual world we ourselves created, instead pay attention to the real world and the nature that created us!
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