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Are You Online?

by Gauri Trivedi 

[box]The internet has pervaded our lives like never before and as things stand, today, it is unimaginable for an urbanite to live a day without the internet. Ironically, though, the internet has made tough things simpler and simple things tougher, points out Gauri Trivedi.[/box]

 

“It’s 11.45 p.m.” She types.

“So?” comes back a quick rejoin.

“I am working on something.” He writes.

“Like what? Browsing news from all over the world?” blinks a retort.

“All done with your brain-defusing T.V. shows?” He returns the favour.

“The  T.V. has been turned off, if you haven’t noticed.” She delivers the last line before setting aside her laptop and leaving the room.

“Ok, join you in a couple of min. darling.” His last message beeps on her mobile phone.

Who would have thought a couple sitting in the same room would ever require the internet to communicate? Well, they don’t need to, they don’t have to, but they just do! This is the undisputed reality of an urbanite today; speaking your mind takes effort, typing doesn’t.

And if the day ends with a beep, can it commence any differently? Music on cell phones has replaced traditional bedside alarm clocks for most, if not all of us. Equipped with smart phones by our bedside, we wake up to its incessant ringing, flashing of new emails and reminders for the day. And from there on, there is just more and more of internet in our day, throughout the day.

Everything takes place at the click of a mouse or the movement of a finger. From buying a dress to payment of bills, planning a trip to booking a vacation, sending the kids’ absence note to reading a newsletter from the school, distributing invitations for a party to dispatching thank you notes, keeping in touch to saying good bye, all happens at the pace of your internet connection – high-speed and paperless. And this is just the utilitarian part of being “online”.  The internet does a lot of things other than saving time and energy on tasks which, we would otherwise be doing in person. It presents ample opportunities for socializing and entertainment and thus adds a huge recreational value to our day-to-day life.

There was a time when computers were used at work and could not be brought home. Now, we have laptops and tablets and Wi-Fi connections for them, resulting in work following us home and also the other way round. Undoubtedly, the internet has brought about a revolutionary change in communication and convenience at work. And it is not only our professional life that the internet has altered with its arrival.

In my opinion, what the internet has profoundly affected is our relationships; the way we see them and how we nurture them. We have learnt to use and master this wonderful communication tool to our advantage but have forgotten to put a limit to its use. There is no barricade that restrains its advent in our private lives. Like rain water blending into a stream, the internet has covered just about every area of our life, nothing is sacred and not a thing remains impervious. I have seen people taking their smart phones and laptops inside the bathroom, so much for privacy!

Facebook, Twitter, and various other socializing paraphernalia that we use more often than we drink water these days (which, I must point out is absolutely essential to maintain good health and appearance!) have lessened the divide between the personal and the impersonal, close and the distant. Family dinner times at home are disrupted by text messages and we don’t even take them as distractions. At restaurants, we post a picture of the delicacy before we eat it! Oh, and all that after we have “checked in” our location. Ironically, we strive to maximize “quality” time with those close to us, only to ignore them when they are seated right across the table from us.

The obsession with staying connected via social networks takes us farther away from people actually close to us but are not as internet savvy and maintaining a noticeable profile online brings us in proximity with people we are often better without.

In a way, with its omnipresence, the internet has created a kind of a gratuitous contrast. It has made hard things simpler and simple things harder.

For example, the internet has made saying “NO” easier.  Can’t make it for a party? Decline the Evite invitation. Forgot a friend’s birthday? Post a belated “happy B’day” message on Facebook. Not in the mood for dinner with the same people again this Saturday? Find something else to do, send in an email. Certain words or even excuses which would not find their way out of our mouths if we came face to face with their recipient or had to call them, flow effortlessly on virtual paper. Rejections that would otherwise embarrass us don’t feel as brutal when we read them and not hear them directly.

Feelings of awkwardness, deceit or guilt, can all be very efficiently concealed while saying NO online. You are also saved from being subject to interpretation based on the tone of your voice or facial expressions, which give away a lot, when you turn down an offer of assistance or refuse to yield a favour. Hiding behind the wall of an electronic medium gives you the freedom to choose and the strength to refuse.

Does this form of expression take away some of the feeling from what a refusal is supposed to mean? Maybe yes, but does it make it easier to say No? Definitely so!

And while harder things get easier, a few simple things get complicated en-route the internet. When you have a set of mutual friends on the social media, you cannot just “like” a picture that catches your fancy. The pressing of the “Like” button has a lot of implications that involve the other friends and in order to be politically correct, their recent postings will also have to be taken into consideration.

Your making an important announcement on Twitter may offend people close to you who might have expected a private conversation first instead of being held at par with the rest of the world.

These are just a few examples of how much we let the internet meddle with our personal business. The problem is not with the technology, it is with us.

The world and our life in it without the internet are unimaginable from where we stand today.  So what do we do? Do we worry about its intrusion in our homes at odd hours or be grateful for having even the farthest of our loved ones in front of our eyes with a simple device?

I would say “Like” it or not, the internet is here to stay. So, embrace it but make sure you leave it behind where there is no need for it. You definitely do not need it to cajole your spouse sitting across on a couch in the same room as you to come to bed. An impish smile might just do the trick!

Gauri Trivedi is a former business law professional who makes the law at home these days. A Mom to two lovely daughters, her days are filled with constant learning and non- stop fun. All of her “mommy time” goes into writing and finds itself on her blog pages http://messyhomelovelykids.blogspot.com/ and  http://pastaandparatha.blogspot.com/ and if she is not writing she is definitely reading something!

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  1. Just fabulous !! Gauri, I specially loved the part where you mention that internet has made simple things harder, but harder things simple 😉

  2. Loved it ! You know we don’t have smart phones because we are afraid they will take charge of our lives. And sometimes I personally feel that we ( me & him ) are still living in the last century !! Anyways there is a book ” Alone Together” by Sherry Turkle, you might like it as it stresses on how technology has drained our emotional lives. Believe it or not I was reading that book recently when I went into labor !! :))

  3. Good write…we need to embrace the internet but in the midst of all this we have lost the core values of the physical communication. The future generation is on the path of easy communication and it makes me wonder if we are doing it for the right reason.

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