Have you ever thought of going without your cell-phone for a day? If you haven’t, think of it now, and I’m sure most of you will be overcome by a sense of panic. Now let us expand our horizon a tad bit more and think of a day without gadgets. It feels like the world would come crashing down on you, doesn’t it? How would you manage to get any of your work done?
This small exercise makes it evident that a gadget-free life is not just hard to comprehend but also impossible to achieve, so much so, that they could be added to the list of basic amenities for survival. We might go a day without food, but an hour without having a check at mobile notifications is rare. From the buzz of the phone that wakes us up in the morning to listening to songs on our iPods while we sleep, gadgets rule our lifestyle.
One might argue that they have made our lives so much easier, brought us closer, bridged all gaps and enhanced human communication and comfort beyond imagination. But have we ever tried to see the other side of the coin, the side that paints a rather gloomy picture of the influence of gadgets on our lifestyle and relations?
Studies have revealed that almost 4.7 billion people own a cell-phone, 3 billion out of which use it to access the internet. The average smartphone user spends 1.8 hours on the internet every day. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 46 times a day, and in the US, people do this a collective 8 billion times every 24 hours. More than 50% of people begin using their smartphones immediately after they wake up. With smartphone usage reaching its zenith, have we, the users, really become smart? Sadly, I think not.
With solutions to almost every problem that mankind could be expected to be faced with, available a click away, thinking through situations, analysing the obstacles and using logic and common sense to deal with them, has taken a backseat. How big or small the question might be, googling it right away is the first answer we come up with.
Social media apps have now become verbs. A whopping 2.8 billion people reached out and made connections using their mobile devices in 2015. Talking to strangers on social media platforms is commonplace, and it definitely has brought us all closer as a human race, at the same time taking us away from the real relations. Our lives are centred around virtual realities, with people we know nothing about, influencing our moods and behaviour.
A staggering 1.8 billion pictures are uploaded on Facebook every day, which amounts to about a sixth of the world population. Our activities are based on how we want our social profile to look like and not the other way round. There is an unsaid competition and pressure to get enough likes and comments, to stand out in the race of hashtag activism. Not being able to do that results in emotional turmoil and strife. In a nutshell, we have become the projected image of ourselves on social media platforms which makes us victims of an identity crisis.
Voicing our opinions has become synonymous with updating our status or tweeting. People are labelled as sexist, racist, anti-national, blasphemous, etc based on the posts they make and sites they follow. Choosing not to have an opinion about something is termed ignorance. The private space that every human is entitled to is lost amidst the social media hullabaloo.
Excessive gadget usage has brought about a transformation in language. An alphabet soup of acronyms, abbreviations, and neologisms has grown up around technologically mediated communication to help us be understood. With LOL celebrating its 25th birthday a few years ago and words like selfie, hashtag, and tweet becoming an integral part of everyday communication, language is constantly being updated and subverted. A troll is no longer just a character from Norse folklore, but someone who makes offensive or provocative comments online; a sock puppet is no longer solely a puppet made from an old sock, but a self-serving fake online persona; and astroturfing is no longer simply laying a plastic lawn but also a fake online grass-roots movement.
Communication has for sure become quicker, easier and precise, but the nuances of conversing have been lost in the process. Texting has replaced talking in person and emoticons have taken the place of emotions. Wouldn’t it just be better to have hands to hold rather than keys to click?
Excessive usage of gadgets makes us lose track of our surroundings. The number of accidents due to texting and driving is way higher than drinking and driving in the US. The effects are not only mental; there are serious physical impacts too. Overusage of laptops and phones cause eye problems, tennis elbow, backache, headache, hearing impairment and might even increase risk during pregnancy. The ionising radiations emitted by these gadgets are cancerous. They’ve made us couch potatoes and obesity, hypertension and stress are now more common than they ever were.
We made machines to make our lives simpler and more comfortable, but as it turns out, they’ve made us lose touch with the real pleasures of life itself. They should’ve been operated by us, instead, we are being enslaved by them. The only way out is to plug out for at least an hour a day. Look around, and you’ll find pleasures outside the screens you’re so hooked to. Live outside the web of signals, wires, pixels and bits. Get yourself charged up and go unplugged.