JournalismPakistan.com May 10, 2017
We are no longer up close and personal. On the contrary, we have so effectively learned to duck the person and the issue by hiding behind the crumbling concrete of social platforms. Texting is killing the one thing that made us different from other forms of human life - the ability to express ourselves in speech.
It is also an escape route so no one notices our inadequacies.
A generation ago people spoke to one another, and even if they were in your face, the element of benign confrontation called for a certain honesty and transparency. It also required effort. You had to look the other person in the eye. That meant something and strengthened character. Face to face.
Now, we wallow in rank cowardice. Just use the keyboard to send out our messages of deceit.
Sorry, can't make it tonight, something came up.
Was trying to get in touch with you, your phone was busy.
Got a touch of the flu, plan canceled.
Will get back to you.
Can I call you later?
Am in a meeting.
A snowfall of nothingness and as fluffy and lacking in substance as a flake. Melting away into a trickle. Truth be told, texting has become our refuge because we can now say things long distance we would be afraid to express in person or have now become incapable of doing so. This is actually false courage and we never really feel good about it but we do it because it is so much easier and not demanding.
The fallback on messaging is also easier because it is bland. There is no risk of the quiver in the voice, no blatant blink of the eye if you were in the presence of the other person; you lie with dexterity and a complete lack of conscience.
And get out of the commitment with increasingly diminishing guilt.
As our own self-assurance drops and we lose the stamina and ability to engage in more meaningful and deep verbal interaction with the human race the habit becomes an addiction. Emotions are soon compressed into ten words and we are well on the way to becoming cerebral midgets wherein we like to avoid all awkward situations or those that demand effort from us.
The sloth permeates our value system. This laziness allows us to avoid the unpleasant, the awkward, and the difficult. So, if someone dies, it is easier to say RIP than call and express regret. Most of us have lost the ability to be graceful. Grief and commiseration are perfect examples of how swiftly we have lost the knack for in-depth conversation.
Too tough to call, what will I say, poor thing, let's send a 'msg instd.' By the same token, good things are also given short shrift. We find it tough to pick up the phone and say, "hey, happy birthday' so we sullenly send a message that says, "Hpy bday"
And think we have done our bit. Ironically, the mobile phone, which is now a fifth limb and an extension of the human body, is fine for texting but a sort of a half-foe when it comes to talking on it. We are more reluctant by the day. Now, that we know who is on the other end there is, even more, reason to avoid that person.
Think of it. It must rank as incredible stupidity that two human beings can engage in an exchange of 50 plus messages to and fro over half-an-hour even though they are five kilometers apart and could meet up and chat in minutes.
Yet, several million individuals not merely two do exactly this every day.
It is all a bit pathetic really but this surrender of relationships is now endemic. The average adult looks at or engages his phone between 80 and 150 times a day, of which the least exercise is taking a call or making it.
Only 15 per cent roughly is the making or receiving of calls. The rest is texting.
Between Whatsapp, emails and texting options, the capacity to talk is going the way of the clumsiness that marks most people's writing.
Human frailty is part of the reason for this attitude and as we become unsure of ourselves and our interactive abilities atrophy, we will become more insular and withdrawn and our eloquence shall fracture.
Both are endangered species.
The impersonal friendship spawned in the ether or the iCloud as one might refer to it is a testament to how swiftly we are plummeting down the hill.
Ask yourself a few questions. When was the last time you wrote a proper letter or received one?
Do you really think that 140 letters with spacing is the extent of your world and that this is enough?
Would you like your life to be a tweet and all you do in it as brief and fleeting? Did you share sadness in a friend's life by sending a cold play message of no real meaning because calling and talking would need effort?
Do you think texting is a warm and fuzzy convenience or an act of supreme rudeness and a total lack of affection? We won't like the answers.
As you lose the art of conversation, you gradually begin to discover you are groping for articulation. Then you gather speed and find you cannot even engage in basic verbal courtesies.
Perilously close to dumb animals.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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