Gitanjali Diwakar is a journalist with The Hindu Businessline. In her words, she is 'a Jack of many trades and a master of a few'. She enjoys reading a wide range of books, including fiction and philosophy. Her greatest passions, however, are culture and performing arts.

Gitanjali Diwakar

Gadgets, conversation and mental health

Gitanjali Diwakar | Updated on June 19, 2020 Published on June 18, 2020

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Do you think the written word can work wonders at all times? May be not.

Picture this.  

The never-ending professional and personal commitments compel you to make numerous sacrifices. The struggles often leave you disheartened and lost. Soon, waking up from a seven-hour-long trip to dreamland becomes the most dreaded moment of your life.  

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What would you do? Talk to a trusted confidant or engage yourself with a texting-spree? 

The answer to this question is strangely debatable. While the former is faster and less time consuming, the latter allows one to process their thoughts before presenting it to a third-party. 

Our lives have been deeply driven by objects that were: 

  1. Imagined by human beings 
  2. Conceptualised by human beings 
  3. Created by human beings 
  4. Used by human beings, and finally 
  5. Criticised by human beings 

The result – we are no better than Siri or Google Assistant. We lack a sense of empathy and don’t possess even the slightest degree of sensitivity.

Why?

Face it. In the rush of being the fastest, mankind seems to have forgotten their greatest gift all – the ability to speak.

Even birds and animals use sounds to express themselves and to signal to kith and kin.

Speech or speaking effectively - is a gift that most people possess.

In my view, it is the ineffective utilisation of this skill that sets the ball rolling for an unpleasant tomorrow.

Look around you, look at yourself. Do you have the courage to switch off our mobile phones, laptops, iPads or any device for a day or two? Can you keep your hands away from your camera-phone, camera or anything with a battery and indulge in activities that spare your eyes of the blue-rays?  

What prompted me to draw such conclusions? 

Well, I belong to the Yahoo chatroom and Orkut generation . During my childhood, internet-based communication was meant to ‘apparently’ help bridge gaps, make friends etc.

Over a span of 17 years, I saw how the virtual platforms failed to bring people closer – only few had the guts to pick up the phone and call one another; some others refused to speak at all (except via an online forum), while many preferred the virtual world over reality.  

This led to a range of socialising issues as well as the absolute inability to appreciate the real-person from the superficial souls. It is also observed that many people, who are active in the virtual space, possess poor interpersonal communication skills and are rather quiet.  

Interestingly, the lockdown had exposed me to a world where we relied heavily on technology to be human! Video call, webinars, and the rest made us feel strangely relevant. The truth is, we were talking to a computer interface, not the real person.  

So, why does it bother me? 

This could be explained through a story. 

My friends and I often dine together at our workplace. During those 30 minutes, we talk about a number of subjects – sports, history, sitcoms, movies, family and more. But, for long, one of my friends chose to run his hands through screens of his phone EVEN when the world around us was asleep!

At first, we ignored and appreciated his sincerity towards being up-to-date. Over a period of time, this gesture began to annoy us for he failed to answer questions that were, in fact, directed to him.

The conversation had eventually turned strange:

Me: Dude, we are asking you something you. What are you 'dabbing' your phone for? 

Dude: No, nothing. I was checking if Twitter had broken a story that we should take up. 

Me: It’s dinner time. Eat, relax. Your eyes need their rest. 

Dude: But what if there is a major story and we miss it, then I might lose my job because I was keeping a tab of Twitter and failed to do so? 

Me: IT DOES NOT MATTER. WE WANT TO SPEAK WITH YOU. Would you relax?

Dude: Why does it bother you so much?

Me: Here is a challenge. How about speaking six sentences within the next minute?

Dude: Ok. So, done with dinner?

Me: Yes.

Dude: Ok

Me: The next sentence?

Dude: How did you find work?

Me: The usual.

Dude: OK

Me: Dude, are you unable to form a sentence with five or six words? Your text messages say otherwise.

Dude: Yeah.

Me: What does that mean?

Dude: I am not as talkative as you.

Me: But like I said, your messages go on, and on, an on.

Dude: Well.......

This was one such example.

Believe me, there are infinite instances of people reading or toggling their mobile apps even while dining with their families.

These tales clearly demonstrate the sheer inability to communicate without an tech- interface.

As a result, many lack that precious human trait - to speak to another person or understand him or her.

Whatever happened to good-old table-talk? 

Must we speak?

Yes, we should.

We are not fortune tellers and its only words that can truly leave an impact on one’s personality. The written word may be well-thought of, and drafted effectively. But the right words, spoken at the apt moment, could speed-up the decision making process.

Agreed - not everybody possesses the Gift of the Gab. But human beings, even infants, are accustomed to sounds. Perhaps that is why many parents speak to their children, sing lullabies and more.

Moreover, life is often about spontaneity. Thus, I feel speaking is the most spontaneous activity. A person's comments speaks volumes about his or her personality and way of life. It allows one to see who the other really is.

It is, hence, recommended that one must speak up when they are in doubt or seek help and talk to a professional when they are upset.  

Think of those wonderful moments during our childhood. If somebody was hurt, either intentionally or unintentionally, we would say sorry, smile, play a few games and life was great again. The act of speaking a small yet powerful word of apology was effective.

Even in the world of adults, a conversation can heal problems faster that tweets, email or texts.

According to me, a reaction to a statement is wiser than none at all. That way, we learn who and what matters to us as well as what does not.

Sure, the current restriction might demand other alternatives. But in due course of time, we must make that effort to walk up to the other person and greet them with the most pleasant - Hello.

Nothing beats the power of 'word-sounds'.

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Published on June 18, 2020
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