Business Today

Tech trap

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: March 4, 2012

My wife often accuses me of staring at my mobile phone screen when we are together instead of talking to her. Despite her annoyance, I find I have not changed my habit, but gradually, she has changed hers. These days, while I am either on the phone or using the laptop, she surfs the Net on our iPad. And we are not the only couple to suffer from technology-imposed marital issues.

Kushan Mitra
Kushan Mitra
A long-standing joke among my friends is that it is perhaps easier to reach me on Twitter or Facebook than on the phone. Given that my phones are usually on 'silent' mode, there is some truth in that. But at least I keep my phones on 'silent'.

There are many who, despite repeated reminders, do not switch their phones off or put them on 'silent' at movies and concerts. In early January, a performance of the New York Philharmonic was stopped mid-show because a man's iPhone went off.

It is not just the ringing mobiles. Recall how people stopped blaring loud music while travelling on the Delhi Metro only after the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation cracked down. Sometimes taking the elevator these days is an ordeal because there are people inside talking loudly on their mobiles, despite the fact that there is a significant signal loss in most lifts.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you went through a dinner date without busying yourself with your phone at least once? People are often so busy on a messenger service or checking out the Facebook status update of somebody they recently met that they tend to forget about the person sitting opposite them. While there is no doubt that technology has allowed people with poor social skills an opportunity to interact like never before, it has also made a large number of us quite rude. Worse, it is making people more and more oblivious to their immediate surroundings.

Remember that one day in January this year when there were two cases of youngsters being run over at railway crossings because they had earphones plugged in and did not notice the express train storming towards them at 80 km an hour? There have been cases of joggers falling off cliffs because they were so lost in the music being piped into their ears.

Of course, these people were not being rude, they were simply enjoying the music, but such episodes highlight just how technology has taken over our lives. Nor are fatal incidents limited to people committing what could be called 'digital suicide'. There are instances of people causing road accidents because they were texting from their phones while driving. Some train accidents in the United States have been attributed to the engine drivers texting and messaging on their devices.

There is no doubt that the digital revolution - the array of personal devices that keep everyone connected - has changed human civilisation forever. But have we let technology take over our lives to the extent that we are losing both our social skills and our common sense? Let us try to shake off these bad habits this year.

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