The game of thumbs with gadgets

(Published in The Hindu: )

It’s the double-edged sword in our lives today. While technology has surged us ahead in every way, it has also pulled us an equal distance away from human interactions.

Often do I find myself guilty of the crime of obliviousness. My husband will call out for me four or five times before I have been jolted out of the WhatsApp conversation I am engrossed in, my thumbs operating at lightning speed and my mind articulating even faster.

Eyes transfixed on screens of various sizes, fingers clicking away exploring every feature and length and breadth of all things digital, we are letting our physical senses of sight, smell, hearing and feeling atrophy. We fail to experience the real features of the world around us.

Not to be left behind in the rat-race, we clamber laboriously to obtain that new app that will make another aspect of our already simplified lives (through technology) a degree closer from our grasp. In doing so, ostensibly we are standing by the argument of ‘it makes our lives easier, so why not’. But what it also does is that it makes us lazier, unsociable and verbally uncommunicative.

Many grapple with maintaining the balance and few manage to balance the scales so as not to let technology weigh in heavier than life itself. The myriad social networking platforms have allowed us to do everything from letting the world know what we ate for breakfast to what we wore at that party to who our secret crush is, all without having to utter a word. The thumbs have taken over.

My sister, being in another country, now communicates with me through Snapchat messages. We may go days without a phone call but thanks to the wonders of Snapchat, WhatsApp and even Voxies (video/audio features on the selfie cameras now), the effort of a phone call is becoming redundant.

I spend a lot of time on my own these days owing to a recent country move and being unemployed currently while my husband goes to work. My only window to the outside world and what brings me up to speed with current events, friends and family are the different gadgets in my possession. But I now consciously make the effort to engage in physical activity that involves physically meeting other people and gadget-free soirees to ensure thumbs don’t have the upper hand.

Now with educational institutions also incorporating iPads and computer-based educational curricula, the newer generations are married to their devices almost as soon as they are born — something we were lucky enough to have escaped. We were pushed to play outdoors: those home-grown games that became household names like ‘Stapoo’, ‘Musical Chairs’, ‘Hide and Seek’. They were the lifelines of many a birthday party and school lunch break, now just joyful memories fading away. What a shame it would be to lose more such wonderful memories and not be able to pass them on to future generations.

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