Technology has had an increasingly profound impact on our lives, especially in the last couple of decades. With mobile phones & I pads / tablets, high speed internet & wireless technology including blue tooth, smart televisions & interactive ATMs, mankind has come a long way since the days of dial telephones and hand-written postal letters. It has evolved to levels perhaps unimaginable two decades ago, yielding utmost comfort and convenience in day-to-day life. The manner of interacting with fellow human beings has been redefined, so to speak, with many day to day transactions today seldom requiring human to human interactions. Mechanization has yielded a new medium for conducting interactions, to fulfill rudimentary modern day needs. Be it for conducting transactions with the bank via the ATM, which today is equipped to handle a repertoire of requests, or for communicating with friends, relatives or anyone else across the globe via the internet, machine is the new face of modern day transactions, which man interacts with. As a result, human-to-human expressive touch points have drastically reduced.
Some essential human virtues governing the success of human interactions, at the centre point of which is trust, have suffered in the process, arguably so, rendering bereft the application of ‘heart’ in any of modern day transactions. It is more about the brain. Well, let us ponder over this.
Let us take the example of Mobile phones. Mobile phone invention perhaps is the next best thing to have happened to mankind since slice bread. An estimated 10 trillion messages were sent globally in 2013 through the mobile phone. This number has been on the rise consistently year after year.
I recall, when I was in college about 20 years ago, that one woke up to the morning newspaper (I was a ‘Hindu’ loyalist I must confess. The reference here, I must clarify, is to the National Daily, rather than my religion, lest it rakes up any non-secular sentiments) with or without freshly brewed filter coffee. Today, one wakes up to either an I-Phone or a Samsung Galaxy or the like, with or without freshly brewed filter coffee. We must be thankful, that the filter coffee has sustained the test of time and the advent of technology. But back to the mobile phone. It wakes you up in the morning, keeps you company during the day and puts you to sleep too at night. You are being tracked as regards to your whereabouts 24/7 and hence your family members could know exactly where you are, at any point in time. The mobile phone is your news agent, your interface to the external world, your entertainment means and your transactional medium to deal with banking chores, socializing with friends or even with ticketing for a movie or a holiday. It is a phone which is in substance much more than just a phone.
Going back to my college days, would the current generation believe it, there was no phone at home. I grew up without a phone, yes! I would leave for college at 7 am in the morning and come back home in the afternoon, sometimes late, with no mobile phone in my pocket. My folks at home knew it and did not find the need to track my whereabouts or even to confirm that I was safe and would come back home that afternoon too, like I did every other day. Nor was any need ever felt in my heart to call and tell them that I would be late on a particular day. Or take my father for instance, who travelled tirelessly on work, many times for days together and without any sort of communication in the interim. We all knew though, that he would return after 2 or 3 days and invariably he did so. Ha! This always worked and life went on. There was perhaps a more fundamental connect that went beyond the realms of and worked much better than, mobile phone wireless frequencies of modern age.
Could you at all imagine something similar in today’s context? Not letting your near and dear ones know where you were for hours in succession and even worse just letting them wait for you to come back at the end of a long day at night or from an overseas journey, without any interim messages or calls? Clearly, this Is not something that can be fathomed by the sane mind of the modern world.
One could argue in favor of the modern world, highlighting the precise merits of modernization and telecommunications which keep us connected all the time. Sure they all make perfect sense, but inherently somewhere deep inside all of us, the element of trust that we would place on any or all the things surrounding us, has got diluted. The ‘fundamental connect’ seems to have gone missing and we have to rely on the lifeless electronic medium to be informed, even without the connect.
Another classic example is that of the Email. I cannot help but go back again, to those college days of mine, when postal mails were the order of the day. Email was an unknown, an alien. Human interaction was the main mode of communication. Distance communication mostly transpired through either postal cards (for short text) or postal inland letters (for longer text) within the city and across cities within the country. Unless there was an emergency, in which case, the telegram or phone took precedence as a mode of communication. Intimation of a relative arriving, invitation card for a wedding or any other social gathering, intimation of examination roll numbers, birthday greeting cards would all make their way through the efficient means of the postal system to their destined locations. And arrive they all did, always. There was an expected standard duration for transit from one place to another and the postal delivery system never failed it. Seldom did we doubt the intentions of the person who was to send the mail or for that matter the credibility of the system which was expected to deliver it.
Fast forward to today’s world of Emails and SMSs. We have at our disposal, a plethora of Email engines to send mails from. Innumerable number of mails are sent to one another across the globe, which are delivered instantly. Undoubtedly, this has brought the world closer by reducing the lead time for communication significantly from what it used to be. However, we have abused email as a means of convenient communication by resorting to it, even when the intended recipient is within our hearing distance. For instance at the work place, Email is often insisted upon even after a face to face conversation with a colleague for ‘record purposes’. While a written record may be desirable for external communication, why should there be a need to communicate on email with the person on the next desk? Also, why should there be a need for a simple verbal request of a colleague to be supplemented by a written email request? It is a sheer matter of trust, isn’t it? When the person is within your hearing distance, would you not rather have a face-to-face conversation?
To me, such a behavior points to a lack of trust that the message intended would indeed be communicated well and responded to. An inherent lack of trust on the intended recipient and also perhaps on the system delivering it, to some extent. At times, it is also for self cover, that an email is resorted to or insisted upon. There is perhaps an inherent fear of a potential backlash, which in turn points to a sheer lack of basic trust in a fellow human.
Some imperative human relations virtues have become conspicuous in their absence in the modern era. The ‘new’ world has pushed us to a state where we have come to trust machines and virtual mechanisms more than humans. It is sad, but true. If you dig this a little deeper, it is not surprising. We, as privileged souls of the modern world, conduct our lives largely by interacting with mobile phones, the internet and ATM machines. Human to human and face to face interactions have taken a subconscious backseat in the overall scheme of things. In other words, the more we interact with electronic media, the lesser we interact with fellow humans. And the lesser we interact with humans, the lesser we tend to trust them. Trust presupposes familiarity with a person or thing supplemented by an expectation for that person or thing to behave or conduct himself or herself or itself in a certain way. The greater the familiarity, greater is the scope for trust. Such is the nature of the mind. With reduced human interactions, the scope for familiarity and therefore trust is much lesser.
Our dependence on the E-media has been driven to such proportions today that we even rely on it to function sometimes in substitution of our memory and intellect. We expect the electronic calendar to remind us of important events and meetings. So much so that, if the reminder fails to work, we do not battle an eyelid before blaming it on the e-medium, feeling little guilt for not utilizing that part of our brain which has a memory capability many multiples sharper than that of the e-medium. Somehow our intent to use it well and the trust that it will work have both dissipated. We have only ourselves to blame. We are both culprits and victims.
At the pace we are all running, exaggerative as it may seem, that day is not far when man will look to a machine to manage his mind or even breathe for him.
Electronic devices and machines of the modern world were always meant only to be a means of convenience. They were never made to make you happy and healthy in the long run. Happiness lies in the simple things that no machine or device can give you. In fact, things that matter in life in the long term, are not derived from and cannot be yielded by technology: happiness, health and peace of mind.
Truth be told in simple terms, the crying need of the hour is to revert to basics.
Find time to listen to your body, it tells you what it needs. Trust your own intellect and memory. Your mind is more powerful than the most powerful computer that has been built. Listen to your heart, it knows what is important to you in your life. Spend more time with nature, because nature has a way of connecting with your body and mind. Ditch the treadmill and go for a run early in the morning. Listen to the birds chirping and feel the freshness of the morning breeze against your face.
Talk to fellow humans and loved ones more often. Conduct face to face, trustworthy, caring, loving, considerate human to human conversations. Forget SMSs, forget emails. They do not carry emotions. An email cannot convey to the reader if you were caring or considerate or loving while writing the email.
Albert Einstein once said “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will then have a generation of idiots”
That day is perhaps not far away, if we do not attend to some of the basic virtues of human to human relationships.
It is success in relationships that will eventually lead to happiness in our lives. And that to me is true success.