Facebook, FaceTime or Face-to-face?

The kindly aunty
The kindly aunty
The boy in the upper berth
The boy in the upper berth
Has technology replaced social interaction?
Has technology replaced social interaction?

Remember the excitement during the summer holidays when we went on vacations? Remember how eagerly we looked out of the window? Remember how the vast expanse of land seemed to rush by as the train sliced through the countryside and chugged to the next station as if to catch a few breaths before continuing on its journey? Remember curling up with a book and getting lost in an intricate murder mystery or a romantic sojourn at some exotic destination? Remember how as all the initial hostility melted away, everyone settled down in their seats, exchanged pleasantries and became one happy family? Remember how the aunty in the seat next to you offered you some homemade delicacy as she folded her legs comfortably beneath her and asked you how old you were and why you weren't married?

In the last few years, things have changed so much. During a train journey, we don't look out of the window to see the countryside anymore. Or talk to the aunty seated next to us or borrow the glossy magazine from the gentleman in the upper berth. Now we only look at our phone or the tablet in our hand. Phone calls, messages, skype, weather update, YouTube, Whatsapp, Facebook - there are oh-so-many distractions. We talk all the time but only to the electronic device stuck to our ear. We discuss everything from business matters to whether the train is on time, which station we have just crossed, what arrangements have been made for going back from the station, whether the boy's side said 'yes' and of course, to consult panditji about the next auspicious date. And we discuss all this and more, loudly and within the hearing of all those who are in the vicinity. Like automatons we punch on the keypad or slide our fingers across the screen to view the next message or the new update. But without the etiquette that goes with the usage of mobile phones. For we've become users of hi-tech smart phones but we haven't evolved to people who are sensitive about how we use our cell phones without offending others.

Technology has pervaded our lives and given us greater connectivity. Now it is so easy for us even to reach out to people who live across the world. But it has become that much more difficult to interact with people face to face. So is technology making us less sociable? Are we able to connect more with people in the virtual world but communicate less with people in the real world? How many times do we compulsively check our phones even though there is no alert or message? Why are we so anxious about what is happening in the virtual world? Have we forgotten how to bond with friends in the real world? Why are we so addicted that even within the family, we spend most of our time staring at our phones and take calls even while out on a date, at a restaurant, at the cinema or at a hospital while waiting for the doctor? Why have we given up the joy of looking at someone in the eye while we tell them a story? Has technology replaced human interaction?


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