My friend was worried about her teenage son whose ears were perpetually jammed into noise-cancelling headphones, his face aglow from the screen before him.
She worried that along with the damage that it was doing to his hearing and sight, his body might misunderstand this permanent fixture, gradually assimilating and accepting it as an extension of itself.
When her repeated explanation was cancelled out by his headphones making her appear to him like a solo comedy on mute, she too enveloped her ears into cosy tombs of silence that cancelled the sounds of the real world — her son’s umpteen wants and requests included. A taste of his own medicine was the only way she could get heard!
But can we blame our children, when they are living at a time when there are more smartphones than people on the planet, and everyone around them — their parents included — are engaged in a vicious loop of unlocking their phones every three minutes and ‘getting in touch with the world’ between compressing an array of emotions, the pause between thoughts and moments of the day into a 160 character message limit.
Back in the day, in the pre-smartphone era, the little me would have been offended if either of my parents were to stop me in the midst an important update after a school day to pull out a book and leisurely read a page before unapologetically training their attention back my way.
On the other hand, can we let these this tiny contraption of wires, aluminium, battery and glass overpower us into believing that our eyes are for our phones only, letting go those beautiful moments that make us human, like the act of looking up at the sparkling innocence of a child’s eye in conversation before they too get trained onto a screen
Luckily for us, today’s children are used to talking to parents whose eyes are glued onto their phones and a mechanical nod of the head is all that is required for them to keep their one-sided conversation going.
It often takes hitting a lamp post — jerking you out of your virtual wonder — or being stonewalled in the midst of a conversation to look up and realise that we have been clinging onto our phones with the unwavering loyalty with which we clung to our teddy bears during childhood.
We have come a long way from the Nokia 3310 — a phone better renowned for being so durable that an accidental slip did nothing to the phone but could knock the person on whom it landed out cold — to handheld computers with more processing power than all of Nasa when it sent off its first astronaut to the moon.
As much as we romanticise about the snail mail and the now-forgotten simple lives lived in the pre-smartphone era, would we be thrilled about waiting a week to get a response to a letter when we can get one in under a minute with a quick message.
Would we be OK with our children accepting everything that is thrown their way, like we did in the pre-Google era, without the burning curiosity to hurl some questions back our way?
When the neighbour’s kid can measure the height of the Burj Khalifa or compute the speed of bullet trains with applications on a tablet, would you be content with yours just reading a book?
On the other hand, can we let these this tiny contraption of wires, aluminium, battery and glass overpower us into believing that our eyes are for our phones only, letting go those beautiful moments that make us human, like the act of looking up at the sparkling innocence of a child’s eye in conversation before they too get trained onto a screen.
If eyes are windows to the soul, then our souls are now wilting under the persistent glare of the harsh blue light.
Technology can become that side dish that goes perfectly with the main course, but never the main course because no one in their death bed was heard saying, “I wish I had enough time to check out just one more notification.”
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha
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