Have We Lost Touch?

Unless you’ve been hibernating in some cave, you would know about the way people seem to battle surviving without their tech devices these days. Personally, I think its getting worse.

I got my first cellphone when I was 17 and doing Grade 12, and it was probably the right time for me to get one. In fact, I didn’t really need it. Which school kid needed a cellphone anyway? Its not like we had a job and needed to be on call. At that time my parents would give me a lift to wherever I needed to be, gave me the time that they’d pick me up, and that’s all the arrangements that were needed. My friends were (and still are) trustworthy and reliable, and so in the same way we’d make plans to be at whatever place at whatever time, and 95% of the time we’d meet as planned. The time spent with each other was always great because all of us paid attention to each other and we had no distractions apart from the creepy boys who hung out at the same mall.

Since I had a prepaid phone, I had to buy airtime (credit) every so often. Phones had such limited functionality at that time that the only thing I used it for was to send 2 texts a day to my best friend. Both of us would send the texts at 8pm, and again when we went to bed (i.e.: off peak). It worked out to roughly 60 texts per month. All I needed was R29 airtime every month. It was a damn affordable cellphone bill.

Lately, and often, I’ve been hearing people saying that ever since electronic communication became more sophisticated, the more personal communication deteriorated. BBM, Whatsapp and God knows what else…how many people make actual phone calls anymore?

There have been several occasions where I was with a bunch of people, of various ages, and there were moments of silence because all of them were preoccupied with their phones. To me it was the rudest thing. I also have a smartphone, a pretty damn good one at that, but unless I need to make/receive a call, or take/show a photo, my phone is within my reach but not the centre of my attention. It seems like unlike most, when I meet with people, I actually want to share their company. Am I part of a dying breed?

I’m a great tech fan. I write code, and I love my job. I can’t see that its very common for a programmer to not enjoy tech. But as beneficial as tech is, people seem to be more in touch with it than actual people.  The very foundation of our existence, relationships, seems to be taking a back seat. As much as tech companies like Samsung and Apple go on how you can communicate with people in new ways,  it seems like people still prefer using these devices to communicate over meeting in person. Why is this? How is a text message better than an actual hug? Or a smile? Or a twinkle in the eye?

People, for God’s sake, get your fat head off that phone and start looking people in the eye when they’re in front of you. They could be somewhere else, but they choose to be with you. Whether its in a meeting at work, a party, or for a cup of coffee, no matter where you are, its damn rude to be giving your cellphone more attention than the people around you.

Challenge yourself. Give your phone up for a day. You’re not going to die without it. Yes, emergencies do happen, but that’s why they’re called emergencies. Unless you’re a doctor in the ER, there’s no way you’ll be encountering emergencies all day. If you really think some emergency is going to happen, stay in a safe place, even if its at home. All you need to do is switch off your cellphone. Most people have landlines, right? Surely someone would call you if there is an emergency? And don’t tell me that people don’t have your landline number. Someone will.

Have I been without a cellphone before? Of course. In 2004 I was in India for 4.5 weeks. I left my cellphone in a drawer at home. I didn’t have Internet access either. The same for 2009 when I went to Italy and Greece. In 2011 at Victoria Falls. Europe 2012 was different because I used my 8MP cellphone as my primary camera. But, unless I was lucky with free WiFi, I had no internet. I didn’t even bother getting an international sim card. Why should I? I was on holiday and my family had the phone numbers of the hotels I was staying at, so what more did I need? Being away from the world I knew was the best thing I could have done. It allowed me to enjoy my holiday much more than I ever would have had I had a fully functional cellphone.

Would I get rid of my cellphone? Of course not. Is it vital to my existence? Of course not. Although it allows me to communicate with those I love in this crazy world, I would totally trade it for the ability to share a physical space with them.

To quote Albert Einstein:

“I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”

Sometimes the friendship is strong enough to not be hindered by tech. No matter after how long you speak or meet each other, the bond is still there.

To my 3 dearest friends – Trisha, Sophia and Rowan – love all of you. You all have a special place in my heart.

To my other friends, both old and new – don’t be jealous of the above 3, I love you too! 😉

To my dearest family member, Dash – well, what can I say. We grew up together; you’re the baby sister I never had.

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