It is going to be that time of the year again when you will be really going out of your way to wish your family and friends Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year. You will be making a lot of WhatsApp video calls, broadcasting live festive greetings to your followers, not to forget go lengths to find some network that supports regular calls (if you make any in 2017), and so much more right from your couch. All the struggle feels worth it when you tag those in your Facebook posts whom you weren’t ‘able to’ meet, get hearts and likes in reactions from those who you last met in person a decade ago. Then, the day goes on, as usual, all without leaving the couch. But this time, I am willing to give up on this hard work.
For the coming two months, instead of making the virtual world my habitat, I am going to attempt to take time out to visit the real world. How many of us have the Sunday planned and intend to go for an outing, watch a movie or go for a drive? A lot of you who are reading this, I hope. Now, of all of you who have planned the day ‘out’, what are the chances you won’t click the burger served at a fancy restaurant and put a bunch of hashtags, with a mention of the friends sitting in front of you, waiting for you to upload the filtered image so they could ‘react’ to it? The chances are zero.
Yes, technology has made the human race much more independent, but it has also made us all independent of each other. Gone are the days when you would wait for people to come and pick you up, or share an ordinary cab. Instead you call an Uber or Ola, and reach the exact geo-coordinates without having to roll down the window to ask a paanwallah where a particular street is. Before you diss this as yet another anti-technology rant, I have the nature of my work to defend this opinion. Technology, right from the fanciest automobiles to the most basic feature phones, gets me excited. With more time spent scrolling endlessly on my beloved phone than waking hours, it is hard to say I am against technology.
My personal problem here is I am dependent on my gadgets to the extent of obsession. I ‘need’ my phone to wake me up, I ‘want’ my Instagram account to be up to date, I ‘desire’ my Facebook friends to shower love on my latest picture. The need turns to greed and then I am stuck in a 16-hour vicious cycle to ensure I am ‘online’ every day, with weekends and festivals included. The body tells me it is time to stop, read a book, actually look into the eyes of the person in front of me and listen. Not only pretend, time to just sleep, take a break.
So before apocalypse hits this planet, and we technology-dependent zombies are forced to evacuate, I aim to preserve the little bit of the humane element left in me. How do I plan to do that? The idea is to limit the use of technology or gadgets. Now, for a person whose day is dominated by the very technology, it might seem like a far-fetched ambition, but certainly achievable to a small extent. But for others, who do not have this dependence as part of their profession, they can simply start by turning on the mute switch and placing the phone face down. It really is that simple.
We are not here suggesting to you yet another resolution for the coming year, which you are, in all likelihood, going to throw at the remotest corner of your mind by the end of this piece. Instead, this is an appeal to take out a few minutes to analyse at which level is your obsession with technology, it is controlled, or you have absolutely no say in how it is controlling your life. Think about how you are going to spend the coming days which mark the beginning of a new year. Do you intend to post endless stories and selfies on Instagram and Snapchat, detailing every account of the new years’ party, and waking up for a regular day of 2018? Or do you wish to sit and have a lunch with your folks where you talk and not hide under the smartphone screens to avoid conversation?
The thing with technology is that it is addictive. Like I said, the need turns to greed, and it is this greed which should be tamed. By all means when you socialise, click pictures, tag people, and use the most random hashtags without being judged. But what you need to ensure is you actually ‘meet’ and ‘greet’ them before your self-portraits begin. Take one step at a time. When you grow comfortable with just one picture, or no picture at all at such gatherings, you will soon be able to confidently keep the phone at the dinner table without hitting the home button to check ‘if’ there are any notifications you missed.
As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. If you do not want people to not pay attention when you talk to them in person, don’t want to complain about your kids who are glued to their gaming consoles or tablets, or teens who are always body conscious and try all angles for the ‘perfect’ selfies, then you need to put down your gadgets first. Limit the time, set a deadline, start with yourself today so you are able to balance the real and the virtual. For these tech honchos, your obsessions levels translate into money, but for us, it not only costs time, money, health, but also our interactions.
So this December, I am going to start altering my habit of keeping my phone switched on, plugged in for charging through the night; set a limit to how many sunsets I post on social media, try to engage in real conversations, and aim at becoming less obsessed with the technology that surrounds me. How do you like the idea of remaining a tech enthusiast without becoming a prop? How do you plan to lessen the obsession levels? We would love to read your ideas.