You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin.
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Sounds familiar? If you're a blogger, you have some version of the above statements listed somewhere on your website. If you're a reader, you've seen it on pretty much every personal or business blog that you've ever visited.
Why shouldn't you? We do live, after all, in a tech-enabled world. We are all connected. All the time. It's very rarely that you find you cannot reach someone at the push of a button or the click of a mouse.
And yet, it was three days before I discovered that my next-door neighbour had suffered a stroke.
It was thirteen days before I heard that a close friend who had been texting on Whatsapp till 7 pm one evening had collapsed due to a fatal attack at 3 am the next morning.
In the first scenario, the lady had been rushed to the hospital on time and anything untoward had been prevented. In the second, nothing could be done, despite ambulances reaching the spot within 10 minutes.
Both these things had been playing on my mind for the past week or so. It was probably no coincidence that last Thursday was also World Suicide Prevention Day. Although in both the situations above, there was no suicide or foul play, it did make me wonder about something far more primal.
Would I ever know if someone really needed my help? Are we no longer just a phone call away? Are we so 'busy' that we have no time to pick up the telephone and punch in a number to ask someone how they are doing today?
What about vice versa? How would anyone know that I needed help in a dire situation? I stay alone for most part of the day. I work from home. I only step out once or twice to either pick up groceries or attend a meeting.
|Picture credit: Pixabay/ No Attribution license|
A conversation with my husband a couple of days ago made me think deeply about this. I was voicing how we seem to be the last generation that has grown up without technology. For us, technology came when we were well into our late twenties. It's been a flood, to be very honest, ever since smartphones and smart devices hit the market. It's a different fact that they don't seem to have made us much 'smarter', but that's a blog post for another day.
To that, he replied, 'If you think about it, our parents' generation is probably the luckiest. They had the best of the non-tech world where they made valuable use of their time. Today, they use tech the way it should be used- as a means to keep in touch or stay updated on information from family and close friends.'
My child was born into the world of touch screens. On a personal level, as parents, we don't give her much screen time. Most of her day is spent either outdoors or between the pages of a book. While I don't for one moment judge anyone for their parenting choices, I do find that more kids today are wary of social interaction, irrespective of their personalities.
That saddens me.
I get into an elevator and I see teens with their heads bent over smartphones, texting or checking social media updates. Walk into any coffee shop and the scene is not vastly different among the office-going crowd either. Even a dinner with friends and colleagues sees people whipping out their devices to combat boredom after the first hour of pleasantries is exchanged.
|Picture credit: Pixabay/ No Attribution license|
As a friend of mine affirmed, I cannot deny the extremely useful and positive nature of social media today. It has put me in touch with wonderful, incredible souls. These people I have had the pleasure to know offline and I bless technology for bringing us together. My story on Depression was easier to tell to a group of people online and the overwhelming support I received as a result cannot be put into words.
But, there is such a thing as being too connected and the fallout is dual in this case. For one thing, not everything we see/read online is ever the complete picture. A person posting pretty pictures and status updates or a YouTube song list may actually be looking for something more than a 'like' or a retweet. She may be asking for help and we'd never know it. In this case, if you even have a niggling suspicion of anything amiss, pick up the phone and talk to them. Listen to the sound of their voice and the inflection that says 'I'm fine' when they really aren't.
Secondly, and this is something I experienced recently, reaching out via technology even among close friends, can be misconstrued. Your intentions can be doubted, your sincerity is questioned and you end up wishing you had never made the effort to do so in the first place. You are visible on social media, right? So the assumption is that you are available. How can you explain that you're merely using it as a distraction- perhaps from work concerns, domestic trouble or negative thoughts that crowd your mind?
Don't get me wrong. I do love technology. It helps me blog, work from home, keep in touch with friends and family way better than I could, say, even 5 years ago.
Somewhere,though, in our mad rush to be at the forefront of technology and everything it promises us, we seem to have snapped our ties with some things that really matter. We seem to have disconnected with the truly personal way of keeping in touch and allowed technology to do the job for us.
Perhaps it's time to look again at the way we use technology.
For our sake and for the sake of our children, don't you agree?