I came across a meme a few days ago, and couldn’t help but realise the grave truth that was spelt out in a few words, typed out on a picture. The meme showed a few men standing at a railway platform, all of them standing alone, busy looking at their smartphones. Only one person stood with a newspaper folded under his arm, looking at some birds on the tracks in front of him.
The caption read: “A man was found looking at the real world today.”
It was funny and not funny at the same time. It was a rare right, a man with a newspaper and not on his phone, rare enough for this 20-something to make a meme about it.
It paints a stark difference compared to a time in the not-so-distant past. Less than 15 years ago, all these men would have been holding books or newspapers. They would be standing in groups, not alone. Most importantly, they would be involved in some sort of conversation. But not today. No one is free today. No one is free to read a book. No one is free to lounge in his garden and read the newspaper for an hour. No one is free to visit a neighbor or a relative over the weekend. We are busy.
The promise with advancing technology was that it would help humans with the mundane chores, make things easier, and leave us with more time at our hands. While things have become easier for sure, it has not resulted in free time. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to be consumed by, controlled by, and addicted to technology.
Our grandparents had divided time into two parts: office time and home time. We do not have that luxury. We have our morning login time for work, then office time, then login-time post working hours, some Netflix time, some social media time, et al.
When we are not on a computer, we are busy on our smartphones. By the time the day comes to an end, we are a tired bag of skin and bones that just hits the bed and sleeps. That surely wasn’t the case when our grandparents were working. They would leave for work and return. They would then find time to play with their grandchildren, visit a friend or a relative, or entertain guests. Over the weekend they would do some gardening, pick up a bucket and soap, and clean the gate, the pillars, etc in the lawn.
Today, we cannot think of living a life like this. We are busy.
We shop online, order food online, get our entertainment online, play games online, communicate online. Yet, we are busy, busier than anyone ever was. We are busy and stressed. We are running. Running from reality, from face-to-face interactions, from distinct old-style weekday and weekend demarcations. All this running and being busy is making us fat, giving us diabetes, hypertension, sometimes, even infertility. Our modern-day amenities have brought us modern-day problems.
Our health is not the only thing that’s getting affected. Addiction to technology is affecting our personal relationships. We spend lesser time with our immediate family members. Earlier, parents would complain that they weren’t really able to see their kids grow up. Well, that holds true today as well, in a far distinct manner.
We have trained ourselves over one decade to live this lifestyle. Unlearning it will take two.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to solve this problem. Even if we are ourselves willing to do so, it will take a monumental effort to shift to a lifestyle with minimal technology. Our families, extended families, friends, work, leisure, and everything in between are all connected. We have trained ourselves over one decade to live this lifestyle. Unlearning it will take two. But it won’t result in a happier life with more free time.
It will make you disconnected, aloof and backward, while the rest of the world, including your own family and friends, will move on. So, what will you do? Will you force them into this technology-free lifestyle as well? Maybe. What about work? Will they be willing to let you, an employee, live in a pre-technology era, working with landline phones and no email? That’s impossible.
The answer, actually, is simple. All it takes is discipline, switching off fake multi-tasking, and a decades-old proverb: time is money.
Money can be earned and spent. But not time. Check your phone if you must, but not when you are in the gym, checking it between sets, or in a queue at a supermarket, while you wait for your turn. Try to have real conversations.
It’s no longer strange to see four family members sitting in their living room, all staring at their phones, forwarding jokes, exchanging emojis, sitting within feet of each other.
Time is precious. Relationships are precious. Learn this before it gets too late.
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He is a journalist who loves reading, number-crunching and driving for miles and miles in his free time. A big fan of psychedelic rock. Loves to eat and is open to experimenting with cuisines. Aspires to be like one of his short-story heroes: Anton Chekhov, O. Henry and Mark Twain.