How much control do gadgets have over our lives?

By Waqar Ahmed Fahad

My wife lost her mobile phone earlier this week, and the events that unfolded after the incident inspired me to write this article. Before I start, let me confess that I belong to the landline generation, and I still fondly reminisce about the times I used to book trunk calls, and waited in long lines to make STD calls to talk to my relatives, who lived outside Delhi.

Although many may think of me as an orthodox person, but, I still believe that mobile phone calls are way too expensive. Nevertheless, this article is not for people like me. It is for those who are always preoccupied with their phones, in one way or the other. When looking at our lives today, it is undeniable that mobile phones have become such a necessity, that without them, we feel suffocated.

It is not uncommon for people to set a morning alarm on their phones, and be woken up by the device. Some people, as soon as they wake up, carry their mobile phones to the bathroom, to read important mails, top trending news, and most importantly, social media messages. Newspapers are rapidly losing out to mobile phones, in becoming the most favoured item people take with them to the bathroom.

Once a person gets ready for work or college, he/she leaves home while either talking to a friend or family member, or listening to music on the phone, all the while travelling either to the bus stop or metro station. As soon as he/she gets into the metro or bus coach, he finds many others already on their phone, a few talking to their beaus, while others listening to songs through the mobiles. Despite any actual scarcity in the availability of books, not many can be seen reading them. Quite like newspapers, books are also clearly losing out fast to mobile phones.

Once a person reaches his/her office or college, he/she seldom passes the opportunity to send messages to friends or family members during boring meetings or lectures. At work, it is not uncommon to find people shopping online or even downloading or live-streaming their favourite TV shows or movies. Whether in workplaces or colleges, people are now more likely to take notes on their phones, tablets or laptops, which means that pens and paper are no longer the preferred means of keeping a record of important topics.

This article is not meant to promote an anti-development or an anti-technology stand. Instead, it is meant to make people realise the extent to which gadgets have enslaved us, without most of us even realising it. I fear, that in future, de-addiction groups like Alcoholic Anonymous may also face tough competition from “Gadget Addicts Anonymous”.

Over the past few years, several research studies have claimed that over consumption of and too much dependence on technology and internet can have adverse affects on people’s health. Some researchers have also concluded that people who spend more time on social networking sites usually end up facing serious issues in their social lives and also increasingly fall victim to psychological disorders, such as depression.

There are times, when we fail realise how unsocial mobile phones and the internet have made us. We no longer prefer meeting friends or family members in person, as long as we are connected to them online. People’s personalities also undergo drastic changes as gadget addiction ensures that smart phones, not people, become our closest confidants and source of support.

Gadgets have gripped almost everyone’s lives—they impact our thinking severely, and in some cases adversely. Games like Pokémon Go have ended up involving people to such an extent that it has even claimed lives, when people accidentally shot at each other while collecting their favorite Pokémons.

Meanwhile, people have been grievously injured or died while taking some selfies in precarious and/or dangerous locations. Sadly, people fail to realise that selfies are only making them more obsessive about themselves, encouraging them to groom narcissistic traits in their personalities.

Mobile phones have also replaced our wrist watches, calendars, calculators and more. Smartphones have conveniently replaced many practices, which just a decade ago, where considered common. Now, it is easier to find headphones, chargers and dongles in people’s home, but, challenging to find a pen.

It is time we asked ourselves whether this extreme dependence on technology is truly enriching our lives. Life may have been much simpler a few decades ago, but, it was also far more peaceful.

Waqar Ahmed Fahad is a doctorate in film studies and is presently associated with various media institutions as a visiting faculty.