My mom’s good morning blessings by 6am make my day…everyday. But this Durga Navmi instead of the message, I got her call early morning.
I was a bit startled…a fear of the unknown sunk in. The first thing I asked was, “Are you ok? Is everything all right? Such an early morning call?” She laughed and said, “Beta, it is Durga Navmi Puja today, I wanted to bless you..wake you up with my voice, wish you in person. What is so unusual?”
I had no answer. Though we spoke for sometime, but my mind was elsewhere.
Something had jolted me, her answer…followed by her question. “I wanted to wish you in person.” “What is so unusual?”
Yes, what was so unusual? I began to dig my brain and decided to pen my introspection supported by a few with whom I happened to discuss this sudden awakening. “How many of us wish people/ relatives/ each other in person?”
Email and Social Media did bring the world closer, but the personal touch got lost somewhere. So where are we heading to?
1. A ‘Broadcast’ of Greetings & Best Wishes
“Happy Birthday” to “Happy Diwali” and “Happy New Year”– all these are now a common broadcast sent in one go. From warm hand-written letters and bright and beautiful greeting cards that adorned my home’s walls each year…we graduated to E-mails. Soon even the animated E-greeting, which to some extent tried to carry forward the warmth, got replaced. We the Robots now poke at our glowing metal boxes aka smartphones to BROADCAST greetings. To add on, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all set into motion. Virtual warmth has replaced in-person love.
Siddhartha Upadhyay, Social Entrepreneur & Sports Promoter from New Delhi says, “Digital media has given wings to the escapists in us. The boon to connect us is being mis-used to veil our lethargy. Talking, meeting and greeting people formed the basis of civilisation that gave us a sense of belonging. Lack of this feeling is giving birth to social diseases like callousness. High time we realise that social media was developed for social networking and not for social disconnect.”
2. Conversation Died a Tragic Death
My friend wanted to plan a holiday in Goa. She recently requested recommendations through a public post on Facebook. In the pre-social media era, we would actually walk-up to our friends or may be call them on phone….had a real conversation, over pleasantries exchanged.
“Same is with our children. Group studies, games in the garden and long-chats under the colony trees were our happy life. Now children exchange notes through mails, play games poking the plastic, glowing boxes in their hands and chat into the night over various social media messengers,” says child psychologist Shahana Singh from New Jersey.
Result? When you introduce them to your friends who have come over for dinner, they utter a small ‘Hello’ and get back to the glowing “dabba’ in their vicinity…whether a TV or a Smartphone.
On the contrary, Monita Sharma, Communication Strategist and NRI in Sydney Australia ensures she calls her parents, siblings, relatives and friends asking their well being as well as exchange greetings on special occasions. “As mother of twin boys, I strongly believe a personal touch is much needed. And whatever I do, will be picked up by my children,” asserts Monita.
3. We are Social, yet so Lonely!
One of my former’s boss’ son recently got married. I was thrilled to see that septuagenarians and octogenarians had out-numbered the youngsters. Groom’s own childhood friends could not make it and sent him gifts bought online or text messages. But these relatives made it even with their walking sticks! Why? I overheard one his grannies, “This was perhaps the last opportunity or among the last one left to meet the entire clan in person. My son wants me to learn WhatsApp, but I somehow could not.” In my heart I thanked God for not letting it happen.
How elated were the Bride and the groom to have them around! How joyous were these wrinkled faces with bright eyes and ear-to-ear smiles! And how lonely were those who could not make it. Sigh.
Isn’t it an empty feeling of having it all but then not having anything at all? Isn’t it a reminder that our journey into the age of information has come at a cost? At the cost of personal touch? At the cost for warmth in relationships? At the cost of basic communication we all must do?
“I stay in Dubai. Social Media and facilities like Skype help me connect to my family and friends back home in India. But I ensure that it doesn’t happen in the city I stay. A warm ‘Hello’ or a ‘knock at the door’ takes just a few minutes,” says Swati Smita an NRI and former hotelier.
Change begins from home. So this festival season…spread warmth, spread cheer, spread love…IN PERSON. Try…it isn’t that difficult, our elders have already shown us the way.
Mahima Sharma, Columnist TechThirsty
Author is former News Editor CNN-News18 & ANI (a collaboration with Reuters)