IS DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY KILLING…INTIMACY??by Monojit Lahiri December 4 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 17 secs
Monojit Lahiri does a check out on how technology has impacted the idea of intimacy and the concept of interpersonal communication.
My friend Atul is shattered! The Bangalore-based professor of English Literature is at his wit’s end and doesn’t know how to cope with this problem. “My kids have completely cut me off from their lives! The elder one, Rahul, works in an ad agency, is doing well and enjoying his job and friends. That’s great - but increasingly, he seems to disengage with us and be totally occupied with his mobile and laptop. Now that he has been given a sophisticated, hi-end i-Phone by the office (with all sorts of weird and funny apps) that is his 24×7 obsession. I got a text message from his bedroom next door, the other day, to say that we should not wait for him to join us for dinner because he had some stuff to attend to. Couldn’t he just come and tell us? We live under the same roof for gawd’s sake! Where is this damn technology taking us …? As for Pia, my college going daughter, the mobile phone is her twin. What happened to those long, lovely chats and interactions the family once shared over meals or Sunday morning brunch? Chats, jokes, gossip, mock-complaints, serious discussions about people, career, events and happenings, heated debates relating to cricket, movies, politics, art. Culture, issues…where did they disappear? “
50-year-old Atul is only one among the zillions who believe that the first step towards a dysfunctional relationship is a breakdown in intimacy. He remains convinced that touch or eye-to-eye bonding can never be replaced by silly, coded, corny, cryptic SMS - condensed tight and weirdly worded.
His wife, 48-year-old Mala, disagrees. She, like her kids, believes technology expands convenience and choice and offers amazing new platforms and options in the area of communication. “Of course, human interaction is the ultimate, but with the kind of pressures, stress and logistics in the workspace, frequently spilling into personal lives, technology is a god-sent solution as a communication catalyst. Remember the old days of trunk-calls and telegrams? Seems like another lifetime! Today, call and connect on Zoom with your loved ones anywhere, anytime, amazing! As for my kids and their techno-obsessions, it’s the time. It’s nothing to do with not loving your parents, but at their age, 24 and 19, har ek friend zaroori hota hai!” she says.
At least in India things are way better than the United Kingdom, where a recent study indicated that almost 50% of the young adults interviewed, admitted tweeting, texting or emailing members of the family living in the same house” But, argues Aseem Arora, a 36-year-old Delhi-based dental surgeon, “What’s the big deal about technology connecting with some member of your family living in the same house? What’s this huge sanctity attached to physical interaction? Didn’t people use the phone in an earlier time to convey and express feelings when their loved ones were out of sight? If you are in your room and need to convey a message to a member of your family in another room and feel lazy to actually get up and go across, what’s wrong with texting? Why is it so emotionally shattering? Beats me!”
Adds Johannesburg-based IT executive Sapna Khanna: “People don’t seem to realize that time marches on and technology is the ultimate driver. Does anyone still write letters? Do you still impatiently await a visit from your postman? These are romantic, archival chapters of yesteryears, but with technology changing, definition of lifestyle changes too. Besides, I genuinely believe that the purists are overreacting because they refuse to budge from their romanticized, dreamy, old-world paradigms that once defined communication. Fact is, they have been upgraded to meet and confront the challenges of today’s nano-second life n’ times. Look at the computer and mobile as friends and allies, not enemies. Besides, for every whining oldie, there are other senior citizens who have superbly adapted to these new-age communication devices and are thoroughly enjoying their multi-faceted bouquet of joys, porn, included!”
So, who’s winning? Tough call.
While the tech-savvy believe that social expression, body language and emotional articulation doesn’t need to define every piece of human communication and does not require or call for personal interaction at every twist n’ turn, traditionalist lament the fact that over-reliance on technology is eroding the joys of basic communication and destroying the very magic of intimacy. They warn that this robotic, anti-human community, dysfunctional as hell, checking mail or texting, 24×7 and finding it impossible to switch off is doomed to forget the simple language of human connection. They urge the champions of the virtual world to remember that technology is a means to an end, not the end itself, and at the end of the day, no mouse can compare with the magical touch of your loved one’s hands.