A villager introducing his family:
Wife: Google Rani – Gives ten replies to one question.
Son: Facebook Kumar – Shares household matters with the neighbourhood.
Daughter: Twitter Kumari – The entire colony follows her.
Mother: WhatsApp mata – Keeps muttering the entire day.
Me — Orkut Kumar – No one bothers about me!
This is from a forward I got. But is the painful reality today as smartphones have taken over our lives and turned us all downwards, whether we are sitting, walking or even talking and whether we are urbanites or rural folk.
I am one of those fossils who is still on the good ol’ mobile phone which might not be as smart as its tosh cousin, but is trusty and discrete doing the job it was intended to – to keep in touch. There are times when I feel left out and protest because everyone shares everything on WhatsApp only to be told, ‘You should be on it!’ in an accusatory tone.
Believe me, resisting the lure is not easy, for every smartphone user is a fervent proselyte determined to convert those who have not acquired one yet. The penultimate straw was when my friend who is a computer illiterate began extolling its virtues and tried to hard sell it to me to remain ‘connected’ even when on the move without the bother of sitting at a laptop! And the final straw came when L&M acquired one and joined the growing band of proselytes.
I am a little confused. Or maybe I am dense. Is it that necessary to be constantly ‘connected’ and share every little thing with one’s friends and groups? True, it has become a necessity to be in touch with our near and dear ones being scattered over the globe. But being glued to the little screen in my palm trying to keep up with what my family or friends are up to can fray my nerves and give me a breakdown sooner than later. Isn’t there something called one’s own time and space? I sure wouldn’t like to moan to the world at large about my burnt dish or my feeling blue. And I most certainly wouldn’t put on a cheerful face to fool the world and myself.
I hear that FB is considered obsolete since oldies have made it their medium to keep in touch with their friends and family keeping tabs on their kids in the bargain! Sometime back I got a text message that advertised an app where the message deletes itself once it is read. ‘Now you can stop your parents from prying into your messages,’ it said little knowing that it was talking to a grandmother! Newer apps are coming up like poison ivy to keep out the oldies.
Let me clarify here that I am not against smartphones per se or that I am trying to trivialize the good things that have resulted from this invention. The helplines during natural and man-made disasters, the spreading of the word in a medical emergency, the companionship it provides to lonely elders….there are many such valuable things that can be accomplished with their help. But what about the flip side, which seems to be getting larger by the day?
- First of all, I have a bone to pick with the word ‘connect’. Whatever happened to the more personal phrase, ‘being in touch with’? It implied that one was actually ‘in touch with’ the other person. Being connected somehow makes it sound like we are each an individual telephone exchange, don’t you think? Ironically, the very device that is supposed to keep us connected is keeping us apart from actual people. See this video Look Up which had gone viral some time back.
- Secondly, as inventions go, I think the smartphone has created more addicts than any other. The addiction has cut across age barriers and even the elderly are addicted to it today. I recently read about a clinic attached to NIMHANS in Bangalore treating net and smartphone addicts, which mostly comprises of teens and even pre-teens.
- I can see nothing positive coming out of six and eight-year- olds glued to their tabs and smartphones declining physical games and social interaction. Today, being aware and informed is considered synonymous with knowledge by these kids and even their parents, who preen with pride at their wards.
- The selfie craze is another scary thing. Posting them is perhaps the biggest pastime of social media addicts. Even while making fun of the trend, they are busy clicking their photos with the other hand.
- This morning’s papers carried another news item about a Mangalore youth being run over by a train as he tried to post a selfie on the tracks. Doing stunts or pretending to do them have taken many a life and limb. People are known to have blown off their brains as they pretended to shoot themselves, perhaps pressing the wrong trigger in their hurry to post the pic on Instagram or WhatsApp. And the youth in the Delhi zoo who was mauled to death by a white tiger? I bet he was trying to get a selfie and the onlookers were intent on ‘sharing’ the scene, as was evident from the clips.
- There is nothing above sharing for the unscrupulous — killings, murders and suicides. The same is true of rapes and molestation in public view. While it is good as a documentary evidence to nail the culprits, the voyeurism that follows by the shares is nothing short of disgusting.
- Talking of photos, today no one is safe from prying cameras, which are conveniently located on both the front and back of the smartphones. Morphing pictures, using them for creating fake accounts and misusing them, blackmailing the subjects – you name it and it is there as a dangerous offshoot of this smart invention. I can hear murmurs of, ‘But it is just a phase and will pass. Didn’t we get over the Walkman and ipod craze?’ Excuse me, but plugging in an earphone to listen to music can in no way be compared to the dangers posed by the smartphone craze even remotely. If you are not convinced, just watch this video.
Interestingly, every time there is an article talking of the harmful psychological effects of these apps and social media networks, there is another one talking about the advantages that appears in double quick time. Makes one wonder how much of a hand the industry has in planting them. Playing down the harmful effects can well blow up in our faces in the not too distant future.
I remember reading this poignant post written by a mother addicted to cyberworld.
From time to time we hear of people going off social media – deactivating their FB profiles and staying off other media forums. But most of them come back, with even more fervor after a break. I don’t think any significant number of those who have viewed the Look Up video have given up using their smartphones. Makes one wonder if it was just another gimmick to go viral. For after all, the social media addicts keep taking potshots at themselves too, don’t they? Talk of negative publicity!
Come to think of it, the use of these gadgets and apps is like riding a tiger. They give a high when one mounts it and gives the false sense of achievement of having tamed it but, when one is tired and wants to get off, one can’t. The various groups one is in can be demanding of one’s time and energy and even lead to depression when one can’t keep up with the flow of ‘shares’, not to speak of the frustration that stems from looking at the world that seems to having fun and going places.
As for me, if I am indeed missing the fun of instant sharing and at times feel left out of the shares, I am not only ok with it but also happy – for I am not astride that tiger. I can’t believe that till some time ago, I had even been pestering the Brats for a smartphone!
And hey! If you have read this far, it means I was successful in making you look up from your smartphone, wasn’t I?
Oops! But I didn’t, did I? For, most of you had read this on your smartphones, hadn’t you? 😀
Images courtesy: Homepage: dangerousminds.net
This page :www.businessweek.com