Generation without an ear

Lend an ear is such a wonderful idiom; I still use it sometimes, but it’s obsoleted in a literal sense. Well I think to myself that if the listener has all my ears meaning I listen to them what’s the harm in them lending me an ear occasionally.

Ears these days are lent to the earphones, earpods, headphones and all such devices that I probably am not aware of. I still remember in earlier days when the phones were launched with messaging system each SMS had a word limit, if you exceed that limit you would be charged for two SMSs, so everyone tend to sum up the point in just a single message to avoid the extra charge. That much money meant a lot back in the day. Along with the charges incurred the SMSs did have a value. Your read it with the same enthusiasm that you read a letter with. The letters that we received in the past were longer, not too long but long enough for you to know what the writer wants to convey. You were never intolerant about its length. In fact, you always felt it should have had more. You felt a longing to know further and, in a response, you wrote another letter to the writer telling your side of the story. This incredible exchange of letters covered multiple layers of emotions. Anxiety, happiness, sorrow, longing, nostalgia and so on. This list can probably take all the related adjectives.

I always wonder how it all fell apart. It did for me as I still am an old school person. I still remember how people texted and texted all night, getting closer and closer, sharing every personal detail in the message yet upon meeting in person felt a distance. I am sure we all have felt this at some point in time with someone. When we agree to meet we know everything from what dress he/she is going to wear to what they are going to say to each other, but the actual encounter goes mostly speechless. Not that there is a downside to this, as physical or in-person closeness comes eventually as it involves being comfortable with each other’s company. As stated earlier, in the era of SMSs you at least had definitive boundaries like limited message packs, happy hours for cheaper calls and so on.

When the latest chatting apps were launched for free everything just started to change. The distant friends, family members came closer, you created groups and chatted with friends all at once which had not happened earlier for years. It all felt good for, some of your friends that you never heard of after school were suddenly part of the group and were just a ‘hi’ away. Wow! It did make you feel closer. You spent your entire schooling learning and creating memories and now you could recollect all of those again. You revisit those days, realizing that every friend has a different set of memories and collectively it all sounds fun. You feel nostalgic thinking those were the best days of your life. Indeed. Those memories were supposed to be cherished but you talked about it all at once. After a day or two or three days in some cases you feel you have exhausted all your topics that you could discuss. Your friends know what you have been doing for all these years and vice versa. What else to talk about now? So that’s when the forwards come into play. They fill the void that is created by lack of things to discuss. All you must do is laugh, feel sad, comment or if not all just ignore it. As this goes on for a while the ignorance keeps growing and growing. All of this finally leads us to one thing, it starts here, ends here and revolves around this and that ultimate truth of the universe is the mobile phone.

Extending their favours further, the mobile phones have done a similar thing to our own personal lives as well. I remember how people came home from work and sat down in front of the television set to catch a glimpse of the 7 ‘0’ clock news in the evening sipping the fresh hot tea. The dinner was served while watching the family’s favorite program on the TV. You had one landline phone at home and there would be tremendous competition to answer that.  We found pleasure in the stupidest program on TV, we gave much importance to the mysteries around wrong numbers/blank calls; and between all of this, packaged, were tons of conversations, laughter and happiness, that have now become wonderful memories for us. Today when I look back at the times we are living in, I ask myself, what are the memories we are creating? From a society of joint families, the birth of twentieth century saw us moving more towards nuclear families. The transition from joint to nuclear families took over a century to happen (if we look at it with a larger perspective) but, our generation took less than a decade to reach further down the granularity. We have become more and more individualistic in the already nuclear families that we are part of. Instead of the evening news we prefer getting those updates Real-time from Facebook and other apps on the phones, we have dinner watching our own favorite programs on each of our phones/tablets/laptops. After a long day instead of having a conversation we prefer to lean back and take a plunge into our mobile phones. Faster the internet better it is. Information is handy and readily available. When earlier we lightened our hearts by speaking about our problems, right now, what we are doing instead is further burdening our souls with what we see on the social networking sites. Earlier when what other people do in their lives was remote to us, now our priority is to see that first and then judge our lives based on that. I remember how we traveled, took pictures saw them time and again to relive those moments. Now, we travel only to post the pictures and fetch likes and comments, then we busy ourselves looking for who liked it and who didn’t then further judging based on that. I recently heard a friend say, ‘what’s the point of traveling if you are not posting pictures on Facebook?’. This is perhaps right, why does a travel feel less significant if you don’t tell people about it? why do we have to decorate the pictures with hashtags? I recently found myself at a tourist destination, I had the camera as usual and I was clicking several pictures, after a point in time I realized I didn’t see it with own eyes instead I kept clicking pictures. What about seeing that with our own eyes to rejuvenate our souls for the further adventures that await us at work.

There is another side to this and I know I am just putting one sided view across. Though the significance of the other side only stays intact if we are content with our own lives. The problem that I wish to delineate arises when we pitch our lives against all the pseudo existences we witness on Social sites. By calling them pseudo I do not mean to diminish or question the lifestyle, but my only intention is to stress the virtual nature of it. Is it ideal to think you are not living your life to the fullest just because you don’t have an active social (networking) life? What if Facebook and all other social networking sites just vanish? Are we going to lead an empty life? For a moment, can we imagine this situation and consider what might follow? The results I am sure are interesting. A big void will be created in each one’s life. The void is something that we need to address. The scenario is so relative that we must find the answer to the ‘how’ on our own.

What all of this is doing essentially is making us more and more intolerant, not towards the society but towards your own people; your family, friends, cousins, partners. We are losing the patience to hear them, to spend time with them. We are growing more impulsive and finding refuge in clinging to our phones when we hit a road block or reach a saturation point in a relationship. We need to remember and remind ourselves that when we have different choices in front of us we always go for the easier pick. In most cases, our mobile phones are topping the charts of being the easy choice. We feel it’s closer to us because it keeps us engaged without having to speak to it. But isn’t that the problem? Are we not becoming conclusive about smaller things and hastily prioritizing our phones over everything else? One of the widely given justifications is the phones offer knowledge, does it mean our ancestors were less knowledgeable by any chance? I do understand it’s a difficult choice, but what’s the harm in sitting across on the dinner table leaving the phones miles away chatting with each other? What’s the harm in waking up early on a fine Sunday morning and sipping the morning tea standing in the balcony looking at the sun go up? If doing that is difficult for you I don’t see the harm in at least trying that. I am sure that will soon top the charts of choices you make and there will be a day when you will pick this over your phone.

-Deven Pahinkar

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Deven Pahinkar

Donning several hats at a time, there is always one thought that pops up when I sit back and think about my day, 'was there anything interesting that I could write about?' There is so much to write about and that's exactly I want to do. I have been on an off the track of writing but super motivated now to pursue my passion of writing.

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