Technology has contributed several inventions which help us to solve our day-to-day problems and make our lives easier. Imagine a life without electricity, computers, internet, vehicles and various other gadgets and machinery… scary isn’t it? Life would have been hell if all of a sudden these are taken back from us. Forget everything else, we are so dependent on our smartphones that we run for a charger before it’s 5% battery life as even 15 minutes without it is unimaginable. Being an author at Amazon.com, I would have never been connected to so many of my readers but for technology. Also, today I am able to write this blog and you are able to read it, all thanks to the technology… in that sense, it connects people, but what if I say a decade ago you were connected to more people and were happier with your social life? You can thank the fewer technological inventions owing to which you had a beautiful childhood which kids of today would never be able to enjoy!
Today, we are connected to several old friends on Facebook & WhatsApp but only in the virtual world which is somehow not real. We have more than 600 friends on the list but yet it feels that we are lonelier than before. Initially, I felt it’s just me and my silly thoughts but later I noticed almost everyone feels the same and considers their social life to be better back in the ’80s & the ’90s. That was when I tried to figure out the problem despite having so many mediums available to connect to people living anywhere on this planet.
Think about it!
The very first observation was with the locality or apartment you live in, you know very less about your neighbours itself and never even make an effort to know them… the reason ‘They are strangers, why would I initiate the conversation? The introvert in me prefers chattering with existing friends online!’ Back in the early ’90s, people used to just ring a doorbell and go for a chat with their neighbours. The only other way to have a social interaction being at home was through telephone where you might not always connect to the person you wish to talk. And back in the 80’s, often only one of the neighbours had a television at home, people living nearby would actually sit and watch a programme together, that was like meeting ten friends at a time for socializing and leisure (not work purpose). When was the last time you met ten known people without a special occasion or an outing or work? Probably technology made the job of connecting people well back then. Now we message that one chosen person and wait for a reply, visit Facebook and check news feed & posts of those virtual friends, we comment, we tweet and retweet and feel that we interacted with humans but what we lack is the human touch. Hey but we do have video chats, don’t we? Still, doesn’t make it up for the interaction you have in person…
That Human touch which used to be…
There were many other small human interactions which were replaced over a period of time thanks to technology & smartphones (along with internet connection). Let’s count on the chances of interactions we missed in today’s time… the most common & the simplest example was asking a route while driving, the general store owner or paanwala we interacted is replaced by Google maps. That situation when auto rickshawala (or cab driver) stops at a corner to guide you because you asked for help doesn’t happen anymore. It is a small yet a very kind gesture when a rich car owner interacts with a poor rickshawala or paanwala and they help selflessly. The person would thank them and they would smile in return. This sweet and short interaction amongst humans make you feel good at times and also ‘more humanely’. But now I would not stop my car because the lady on the Google maps can apparently guide me with the shortest route and the exact distances in her nonchalant voice.
Another example is a journey on a public transport. Earphones save you from a conversation with stupid people but also cause you to miss out an interesting one with a person you feel a positive vibe for. Remember the movie Anand and the concept of ‘Murarilal’ where Anand talks to random people he feels a connect for. Imagine a boy and a girl in a bus, instead of having earphones and eyes on the mobile screen for a WhatsApp chat would rather be reading a novel. A slightly warm smile with an eye contact goes ahead towards discussing a book and thus making a new friend… or maybe more than that! Remember the first scene from the movie ‘Before Sunrise’? A beautiful beginning of a relationship! And the same situation could be perceived without the angle of love as well… two gentlemen probably in their forties strike a conversation because one of them is reading a newspaper and they find a topic like politics or economy or something of common interest to discuss. To pass time while on a journey people tend to socialize and make new friends. Well, these days people read news on the smartphone and it is considered bad manners if you peep into someone’s mobile… so probably a lesser chance of conversation. Also when you travel in a local train now, you would see majority people sitting with heads down focussing in their mobile screen and lots with earphones listening to music or watching movies. It’s an entertaining way to kill time but also shows strangers around us that ‘I am not keen on striking up a conversation with you because I don’t need to… I have only one friend, my smartphone.’
Changes that changed us!
An empty library has several books lying untouched thanks to the internet (where Wikipedia replaces An empty library has several books lying untouched thanks to the internet (where Wikipedia replaces Encyclopedia, eBooks replace Paperback), this was once a place where unknown but like-minded people spent hours together creating many new friendship stories. It’s a testament to the digital age transforming various aspects of our lives. And the online shopping has made it preventable to visit even a grocery store or a movie theatre for buying tickets. In a recent legal development, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that PayPal fees are allowed, bringing further changes to the landscape of online transactions and electronic payments. Those cash counter queues also helped a lot of new interactions and soft smiles. Life is made easy but humanless! People back then had no such choice unlike now where I would talk to an old friend who has shifted to the US but not to a new person living nearby because technology gives me an option as well as a false hope of known people being with me and around me which actually is only in that virtual world. For a loner, an online friend acts like a mirage in a desert which makes you happy for some time but isn’t a reality… ultimately doesn’t fill in that space for you!
And then I thought of those days when people made it a point to meet up daily in the society compound or a common area in the locality and have a chat or crack jokes which have now changed to Group chats on WhatsApp. Honestly, we have come to a stage where we do not even have five such people we voluntarily meet on a day to day basis as we find it difficult to manage time. To meet up 4-5 friends of an old group, we need to plan it up (a dinner plan on weekend at a happening place) and such plans often remain unsuccessful because at least one of them would be busy. A lot of people actually find love to overcome the loneliness and not because they are ready for it or seeking true love. And as we have options and substitutes for the same (thanks to apps like Tinder) the relationships don’t work for long leading to further depression.
The even more negative side of technology taking social media into consideration is the brainwash based on religion by political parties which have reached a new height through the internet & social media websites. Merely a decade ago, it was difficult for these communal groups to spread hatred and could reach only people who were physically present for the discussions. But now, you write a post or share an image with false information and it spreads like a forest fire. People are easily offended and have the guts to show it online because what action can someone take for sharing a post right! The worst goes with twitter where most topics are to bring a debate and there is the extreme polarization of thoughts. You have to choose to be either in support or totally against it to show your presence and in doing so people start writing hate posts without even knowing much about the topic or without confirming the authenticity or source of the information shared on the social media platforms. The intent of social media here becomes more of disconnecting people as we do not have a human filter to control posts that can bring about hatred.
Indeed WhatsApp and Facebook help you make many new friends or reconnect with the old ones and we also have apps like tinder to help find a date but online chats also lead to arguments and breakups quite easily since the tone of the person is misperceived owing to lack of personal interactions. Technology has helped mankind to a great extent but everything comes with a price. It’s time we understand where we need to bring about a restriction and prevent over-dependence on the social media. After all, the lack of personal touch cannot be substituted by connecting with the virtual world, so go ahead and start a conversation right away with the strangers around you or give a friendly smile… it definitely works better than a friend request online!