This I Believe

Srinivas - 22203, Virginia
Entered on December 29, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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In 2006 an American essayist, Stephen Miller, published a book called “Conversation: A History of a Declining Art”, in which he worries that “Neither digital music players nor computers were invented to help people avoid real conversation, but they have that effect”.

I am of strong belief that the inclination of humans to interact socially and the adoption of technology are inversely correlated. While my views on the use of certain technology should not be construed as anything but my philosophies towards the evolution of man/wpmen as a social a animal and his/her interaction with technology.

It is to my dismay that many of the portable technological inventions have become man’s best friend to an extent that we are slowly viewing these devices as companions to escape loneliness. This behavior is far more profound within Individualistic societies as compared to that observed within collectivistic societies.

Amongst the many handheld devices, audio devices like the ipods have created environment that deters creation of social interaction. While it is a good sight to see individuals quite happy listening to music of their choice, it also, at the same time, breaks down the fundamentals of social interaction, i.e. promoting an environment that favors conversations and the individual’s willingness to do so. My personal observations within social gathering places like gyms, public transportations, coffee shops etc have often strengthened my convictions. These places create ideal environments for promoting social interaction, for the simple reason that they attract individuals to a common cause. However, much to my dismay, I often see the music players as a hurdle that breaks one of the important avenues of creating a conversation. There are two observations that seem to lead to this, one the user’s self containment within his/her world of music and the genesis of the feeling that talking to others who seem quite content listening to music might be a disturbance.

The adoption of video players has had the same effect. These days many of the SUVs and Minivans come with DVD players and many young kids have resorted to entertaining themselves watching movies as opposed to watching outdoors, or even talking to their parents. Gone are the days when parents used to indulge in creative ideas to generate games that would pique the brains of their kids. Likewise video games have created an environment where children seem quite content staying indoors as opposed to creating friendship with their neighbors or even engaging themselves with nature.

There are several such manifestations and while I marvel at the improvements in technology and design, I wonder whether they have improved the quality of life. We can spend countless hours debating the advantages these new products provide; I still feel life was far more elegant in olden times. These devices have become, sadly, one of our favorite friends and that we are slowly drifting away from the notion of man as a social animal