My Young Enthusiastic Cousins had just arrived from Lucknow. I was excited to meet these 13 and 14 yrs old mischiefs, hoping for a fun outing. I was stunned when they greeted me without seeing me. I said, look up. You can play video games later. Younger one replied bluntly, Its pubg, it’s not a video game.
Do you know who is closest to you? Not your friends, family or wife or opportunity, it’s this 5-inch long device that beeps more frequently than your heart rate.No matter what you do or where you are, like a shadow, it never leaves you. Mobile phone with the internet has caused a paradigm shift in the way we converse or rather the way we talk to people. Is it for better or worse? Let us find out.
“Cell phones are so convenient that they’re an inconvenience.”-Murakami
The number of Internet users in India will reach 500 million by end of 2018 as per Internet and Mobile Association of India Survey. More than 50% in Rural India and more than 60% in Urban-India have access to mobile internet. Whether I go for a walk or run in the park or I watch a movie in a theatre or I just travel by train or bus or anywhere, people just don’t look up. Even at home, at the dining table, my mom and my dad are at opposite ends deeply engrossed in WhatsApp conversations. Nobody talks nowadays. Technology is simply killing the art of face to face conversation.
“In a good conversation, the words we say are only one small part of the meaning that we convey, there’s also body language, the tone of voice, facial expression,” Dr. James Roberts, author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone? told Digital Trends(online magazine). Phones are a useful barrier for avoiding small talk, but their influence is expanding well beyond the train or the bus stop. Stories about text message break-ups are common. People take to Facebook to notify their friends and families about weddings and funerals. I don’t want your wedding invitation on messenger as an attachment. I miss the days of actually calling someone or visiting them to invite. Phones offer a convenient opt-out for any potentially uncomfortable conversation.
A prisoner in the US was recently released after 44 years in jail. Emerging onto the streets of New York City, Otis Johnson, now 69, found himself bewildered by the world before him. Seeing people apparently talking to themselves on the street, futuristic headphones dangling from their ears reminded him of CIA agents. People barely paid attention to their surroundings, and instead studied their smartphones while crossing the street, engrossed in their own personal bubbles. This was a cultural shock to him. He wanted to go back to Jail. We are trapped and chained by this so-called smartphone.
As per October 2018 report of magazine brand watch,1 in 4 of us spends at least 2hrs on smartphones in India. As per the TOI Report dated December 2017, Indians spend over 200 minutes per day on the mobile Internet, of which 40% is on social media. If we add up 8 hrs of sleep,12 hours of work to 3 hrs of social media, we hardly get any time to have face to face interaction with our friends, neighbors and family members. This is lead to a decline in the quality of conversation. Teenagers don’t have any topic to discuss other than pubg and memes, adults just fight on WhatsApp and Facebook.
In 2013 Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist and esteemed professor at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote Alone Together, in which she questioned the extent to which social media is bringing people together. Following decades of research on the profound impact of modern technology on human relationships, Turkle concluded that with the omnipresence of technology “we’re moving from conversation to connection”.
It really is an issue of self-control. Set aside smartphone-free zones and times. Draft social contracts that lay down the laws about what’s acceptable or unacceptable smartphone use and what the punishments and rewards for either keeping or breaking the contract should be. If you’re concerned, it’s easy to start taking steps. Put your phone in the trunk when you drive, so you can’t be distracted by it. Don’t allow phones at the dinner table. And the next time you’re chatting to someone and you feel that wee buzz on your leg, or hear an incoming alert, ignore it until you’re done talking – it’s probably not more important than the conversation you’re in.
We can’t dumb down a generation just because phones are smart.
People forget what you said, people forget what you did but people never forget how you made them feel-Maya Angelou. Make them feel special by engaging in deep meaningful conversation. It all starts with an honest talk. Touch lives more often than you touch your smartphones.