Guest Post by Apoorva Nanjangud
“…So see you soon, yep, yeah…whatsapp me”. I am not very sure about how it has been with others but most of my conversations of late end like this. We, the generation of today, have been parting ways on a note to get back virtually, possibly the very next minute. Knowing that you’ll find those people at a touch of a button, at any time of the day, in still and moving images, text and voice, has led us to believe that the virtual world is an alternate reality. Even though texting has reduced spatial distance to zero, it has also led to the non-existence of quality verbal-interpersonal communication. I have always had technology at my fingertips, and even before I realized how indispensable it was to my existence, I was already a slave to it. When today — much mature in the head — I weigh down the usefulness of texting, I realize that much of it was unnecessary. Even if it facilitated productive conversations, they were comparatively non-existent.
It all began with a mobile phone that I received as a present when I was 16. I remember paying a hefty price of one rupee per text at that time. Texting caught on soon as my friend circle grew and then you didn’t use the humble SMS to just shoot a “Will be home soon, don’t worry mom”: it became more about the “So wassup?”s and the “So what else”s.
The SMS packs ensured affordability. Thirty five bucks and you were sorted for quite some time: 350 “nonchalant times” to be precise. I remember frantically dialing a certain code to check the number of SMSes left to be utilized and trying to fit as much text as possible in one SMS. And yes! Re-reading those messages was fun too. I cannot be blamed for being so much in awe of the whole idea: it was an interesting and a different world that slowly grew on me. The naive joy that anticipation of a text was, was something else. It sure connected people on a level that talking one-on-one did not.
The more modern rendition of SMS is the real-time texting aka instant-messaging. Oh boy! The tears I have shed to lay my hands on the latest Android phone. Why? Because how could I be alive and NOT be on WhatsApp? I had to tell the world in emoticons that life was good.
That joy was sure unparalleled, but what had I put myself into? My phone had suddenly started buzzing a little too much, and the conversations were made more fun by the introduction of emoticons which could say things better than text could. Plus I could send photos and videos AND audios. “Whoa this is the coolest thing ever”, I thought then. Slowly it became more of dependence than a need. It was convenient, paid for, and all it needed was my time which I had in loads back then.
Texting as a communication facility has been kind to the human race, but it has taken away more than it has given. Texting has brought me closer to people whom I don’t see every day and made me indifferent to people who are around me. Ironic much?
I won’t deny the fact that I have become a slave to technology in general and texting in particular. I have been often asked to “throw away” my phone and/or “bury myself with it”, and at times I have also been casually asked to “take a trip to hell”. So it has definitely had some sort of deep impact on my interpersonal relationships and the communication that comes with them. It has made me less appreciative of people who are around me, engaging me with people who aren’t in my vicinity and unfortunately, made me more people-pleasing.
Of late, inspired by this video titled ‘Look Up‘ that has gone viral on the web, I have started this experiment of shutting my phone for a good one hour and engaging myself in non-digital activities. (Editor’s note: Here is my take on the video Look Up.) An unfortunate revelation is, no one in my texting sphere has noticed my absence. If I am not around even for a while, my family notices, worries and questions and that is something that comforts. I admit I am going through a few withdrawal symptoms like checking the phone in haste only to find it off, the urge to turn it on again, etc, but otherwise, I am coping pretty well.
Texting has gone a long way in human engagement. But don’t we all confide in the fact that too much of everything isn’t good? I was an avid reader for a long time before my phone became something I began and ended my days with. Texting has made me restless and jittery, not to forget anxious.Of late, I have started taking conscious efforts keeping my circle and interactions limited and I am enjoying a certain peace of mind that I was missing before.
It’s a different world, virtually engaging, and importantly converging and I could very well call it a double edged sword. Everything monitored and within limits is appreciable; and that is much applicable to texting too.
“Moderation sweetheart, Moderation”, I tell myself.
(Apoorva is a self-confessed procrastinator extraordinaire who wants to end up being an amusing academician, teaching all things weird and twisted. She also believes that dishing out gyaan every now and then keeps her sane. She blogs at http://nanjangudapoorva.wordpress.com/ ).