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Connected but alone

By: Dr Irfan Zafar

Self-containment, introversion and loneness are just some of the fallouts of our changing lifestyles that define our computer networked bonding, instead of creating human chains. Humans are not digital; making them one will destroy whatever humanity they are left with.


Electronic devices have made life quite easy, especially when it comes to the special occasions of Eid. One wakes up in the morning and starts writing a very long “generic” sms (short message service) full of love and compassion for the humanity at large and for the recipient in particular; generally copied and pasted from the vast knowledge database of the Internet.


The next step is the selection of the number of recipients. Here again, the technology has given us a tool to just click on one button and the whole address book is linked to the message that leaves us only to just press the “send” button and our message, which was supposed to be addressed to a particular individual, is broadcast to thousands. The first “ritual” of “meeting” with the loved ones is achieved while one is still struggling to get out of bed.


This year, the writer of this piece added a simple colon to the message, resulting in my sms being sent back to me by many in the next few hours. How pathetic to read one’s own greeting message received again and again on ones mobile after every few minutes. But this is how life is these days; we are all “connected but alone” for we do not have the “time” like our older generation to meet with our relatives and friends and tend to opt for the easy way out. Connect, send and finish. Our new chosen way of life!


There used to be a time, not long time back, when there existed a family system and bonding while people used to sit at home, together, and this interaction with the older generation was in itself an educational institution. What we see today is a vertical communication taking place between television screens and the viewers with negligible communication taking place horizontally between the humans. We are reluctant to talk, but want the pretentious illusion of being bonded together in strong family bonding.


The site of people working in the same offices, sitting next to each other’s cubicles, are seen “talking” using the computer software’s, which give the choice of editing our words to make them perfect for the recipients. Loss of originality, I suppose! The situation at workplace is not much different from one’s home.


The other day, my son walked into my room feeling really tired and panting. On my query: “What’s going on?” He replied: “I have been playing cricket, so really got tired.” “Do we have any playground near or house?” I asked with surprise. He looked at me with total disbelief at this “uneducated” question and replied that he was playing on the new PS3 gaming platform. I was speechless!


It was height of “insensitivity” that I came across a few months back when my friend’s father died. As I was preparing to go to his place for offering condolence, there came his beautifully written email message showing utmost “care” for us: “Dear Friends, I really know your sentiments on the sad demise of my father. It’s an irreparable loss and there are no words to describe this pain.

“However, I also feel that there will be a lot of inconvenience for you to come all the way to my place for offering “dua” considering everyone’s prior commitments; plus I would also like to take good care of you when you visit me that, of course, will not be possible in the prevailing circumstances. Hence, I will accept your condolences via email and appreciate your feelings concerning my father’s death.”


In short, what my friend was saying that there is no need to come to my place and make his life more difficult. Understandable, but pathetic!


Today, what we see around us are people, all connected, but alone. The sight of people talking to devices takes one back to an age when the sight of such individuals was an immediate reminder of the person’s loss of mind. But things have changed, so have the times.


We come across people talking to the machines while on the road or driving and then there are sudden bursts of laughter making one wonder about the thin line between sanity and lunacy.

And the final nail in the coffin is the Facebook revolution. By the way, it should have been named “face computer” for reading books is a much more sacred activity than posting of random comments on Facebook. A close look at the comments posted on the social networking site has reached such a proportion of “popularity” (absurdness) that a person has to even post his status of “going to the loo”, which is read thousands of miles away by one of the recipients having his breakfast. Surely, in good “taste”!


We already have cyber marriages in place and the day is not far when there will be demand for cyber funerals. Where is all this leading us up to? Connected but alone for our best friend now is our device that is actually steering our lives.


Self-containment, introversion and loneness are just some of the fallouts of our changing lifestyles that define our computer networked bonding, instead of creating human chains. Humans are not digital; making them one will destroy whatever humanity they are left with.


The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He is life member of the Pakistan Engineering Council and senior international editor for IT Insight Magazine. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living In The Grave and several research papers.


Email: drirfanzafar@gmail.com 

Blog: drirfanzafar.com

This entry was posted in: Uncategorized


Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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