The digital revolution has never been more evident than in the handheld devices that have completely changed the way people communicated. There have been numerous jokes about how the devices have brought us virtually closer, all the while driving wedges between us when actual communication was considered. But this post is not about that. Like many other inventions, these smartphones have also been used well or otherwise, based on the person holding it.
Recently, I went to a wedding. The bride and the groom resplendent in their finery and while I noticed the wedding guests, almost everyone did one thing in common. No, it was not about gifting the couple or wishing the happy parents. Invariably, everyone took a selfie with the couple. While this meant an additional minute for those who stood there with them, the overall cumulative delay was much longer. I am not blaming this entirely acceptable practice. Not everyone gets to have the wedding pictures they have commissioned the photographer for, and it is only understandable that everyone would want a piece of their own as a memory.
But even during the muhurtham, the most important part of the marriage, people were more focused on taking pictures of the event instead of standing there and joining the festivities and blessing the couple. This has become such a norm in modern times that it seems odd to actually comment on it. But I remember weddings from few years ago (no, I am not *that* old. I was just born in the tail end of the years of the film roll camera) where only the designated photographer took photos and the others just satisfied themselves with posing. It was a tensely funny moment because we can never be sure how our posture was in the photo until it is actually developed into a print and is in our hands.
This might have been a disadvantage, but people were actually more involved in the proceedings back then than focused on forever immortalizing the moment in their digital worlds. I am not against technology nor am I a snob for things like this, but collectively, we as a society have become people who view the world through our smartphone screens and lenses. It is an unavoidable conclusion that we have forgone our God-gifted 576 megapixel cameras in exchange of our materialistic 21 and 41 (or whatever number) megapixel shooters that have only the digital zoom.
What has made this change possible? IN trying to make the moment more memorable and longer lasting are we actually not living in the moment at all? If everything in our memory needs a digital record, how are we going to savor the special things and the special moments? I appreciate the technology behind everyone being able to own and afford devices that perform multiple miraculous functions with minimum maintenance. In many cases they have replaced our calendars, memo diaries, wrist watches, contacts books, and, by extension, in some cases, our families.
There was a time when dinner was a family affair. But now all restaurant dinners pose another compulsion – the necessity people feel to take pictures of the food the people eat. Hotels get special marks for presenting the food just perfectly for the Instagram pictures. The world is now a lens away, and everything is limited / distorted by this tiny lens. We have grown used to viewing everything as photographs that our actual memory of the event is not that clear as it is in the digital displays.
Is it time to change? Is it the time to keep the devices away and try seeing the world with our eyes instead?