Disconnected in the Age of Digital Communication

The incidences of everyday life can teach us to rethink the domains of living that we tend to take for granted. The author talks about the lack of human to human communications despite social media.

Shehnaz

It is many a times that incidences from your own life compel you to think about issues which concern the world in general. The personal becomes the premise for reflecting on several issues that the world is facing. It was just recently that an incident that occurred in my personal life compelled me to rethink the way we define communication for our times and how we make use of the means of communication.

It is the significance of this event that allowed me to revisit my own existence and to raise several important questions on the theme. I had a colleague who used to work with me earlier but ever since he had left the job, I could not get in touch with him. Whenever I tried contacting him I found his number switched off.

Also he stopped using Facebook, so I couldn’t send him a message on there too. Although he was not my close friend, I still was concerned about his sudden disappearance. Later I heard a rumor that he had got married and started a family life. I assumed possibly that he wanted to be with his wife and be away from all this hustle and bustle. So after this assumption I stopped contacting him. I also was no more thinking about him and where he is.

Recently while talking to another friend who used to work in the same organization, I came to know the reason of his sudden disappearance. She told me that few months ago one of our colleagues who knew where he lived visited his hometown and met him. She found him in a depressed state. He was depressed as he was jobless since more than two years. Due to this reason he switched off his phone or probably changed his number and stopped interacting with the colleagues he knew before.

This entire incident made me reflect on so many things. First of all I thought that even if I was not that much close to him, other colleagues of mine were quite close to him. What made him not to share his real feelings with those friends? Of course it is only not about him being an introvert, surely it points at the absence of true friends who can share their dilemmas and aspirations with the absence of fear.

We as a society are more open to listen happy stories and we are generally in so much hurry to label someone as weak if someone shares their problems that it may become impossible for someone to feel free to share their issues even when they long to do so.

Due to this kind of attitude people become scared of being judged and decide to hold on instead of sharing. In case of my colleague he thought that he is lagging behind, all his friends are working so it was better to disconnect from everyone.

If we compare the number of friends we have on social media and the number of friends with whom we can really share our feelings,  we are likely to be amused at the disparity. I was also listening to a TED talk in which there was a mention of a research study done by Bill McKibben, the environmental writer who found that the number of close friends the average American believe they can call at the time of crisis is declining since 1950’s.

From my own experience also whenever I think about how many friends of mine I can call at the time of crisis, I find that only few of them will immediately pick the call. Some of them won’t pick the call or may not call back. The crisis is such that even the well-known actor late Gurudutt is said to have tried to call his most intimate friends who did not take his calls before he committed suicide.

So this is today’s reality many of us neither pick the call nor bother to call back. The reason of this careless attitude is that we have made our lives so much complicated. We are always busy in doing something or another. Also nowadays we have so many means of communication. Once I questioned one of my friends for not picking up my call. I asked him, “What if there is something urgent?” He replied “There are other modes of communication you can use, I know if there would be something that much urgent you will WhatsApp me or use messenger or text messaging.”

Since WhatsApp and Facebook chats have replaced the face to face meetings it is not surprising that a person could have such thinking. Now we rarely visit each other, instead of visiting a friend and giving them gift for birthdays or marriages we prefer to send the gift through online shopping.

I really appreciate my colleague who took a led, went and met him the friend who got disappeared. Otherwise we all are so much submerged in our own lives that we don’t bother to reach out to people who might be feeling depressed. Sometimes I feel what will happen if we will have no other option to talk to a friend unless visiting their house. Will the number of face to face meetings increase then?

Anyways I took the above case of my colleague as learning and since then I am trying to reach out those friends of mine whom I haven’t met in a while. Either I am calling them or meeting them in person and trying to get a sense of what is going on in their lives. I know I can’t solve all their problems but at least I can give them this assurance that I am there for them.

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