THE WHATSAPP GENERATION
The Whatsapp Generation… this is what we are. Regardless of age, in my opinion, it is fair to state that we, the people on Social Media in general and on Whatsapp particularly, can be termed as the Whatsapp Generation. Over the past week or ten days, two or three people have made the same telling comment, focused approximately on how Whatsapp has both brought people together, improved communication / information dissemination – as well as driven a wedge into relationships. This is a feeling gaining currency – that these technological capabilities are both enabling as well as functionally disabling we, the people as face to face meetings, even in families, become all too rare.
These 2-3 comments lead me to a deep catharsis, a searching self-examination – and I had to agree on both aspects – the vitality of this medium to Modern Life & Business, as well as its deep problems & ability to cause long-term impact on relationships, functional skills, capability as well as habits. That has lead me to a simple question – are we letting the medium rule us, as opposed to us using the medium for our benefit and comfort? Discomforting thought – and seemingly far-fetched.
I took my mind back to my teens and 20s : it wasn’t just reading in those days; I used to be an avid listener of Hindustani Classical Instrumental, Western Maestros with Tchaikovsky & Mozart being particular favourites, Hindi Film Music and much more; I used to play sports, have a much more active lifestyle. All of these were learnt & imbued through personal contacts with a variety of people- meaning, information was being disseminated in those days even without the aid of technology, through good old people to people contact.
IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
More to the point – how and when did I move to a more restricted, compartmentalized list of choices – even in music, given that I had, in those days, a fantastic collection of a wide variety, ranging from Rock, to BoneyM, to Shiv Kumar Sharma, to Lata Mangeshkar? Undoubtedly, social media, and reduced person-to-person contacts played a major role, as the likes ofStravinsky never got mentioned… and out of sight is out of mind, as fresh new ideas of music lead to my trying them out, slowly leading to a receding choice in music as tastes changed. Earlier, personal discussions would be more versatile – that is how I learnt of the magic of Dhrupad, of the pull of Strauss, and of the foot-tapping Bahama Mama!
LOSS OF A PERSONAL TOUCH
This works in all areas of life – from Personal Contacts to Business; the loss of a personal touch is set to have far-reaching consequences, unless corrective action is taken. There is already a stream of Psychology dealing with Digital Addiction, as a small but discomforting example. Two people pointedly remarked to me, people strangely think chatting on Whatsapp / Social Media is a good substitute for meeting, and that is driving relationships south. While no one can argue with the benefits of modern technology, and its ubiquitous beneficial impact, one must remember: excess of anything is bad. This is something we, self included, seem to have forgotten.
So, I made a self-experiment: using Social Media, instead of letting Social Media use me. Be very focused, pointed and targeted, and consciously limit presence on SM as far as possible; the benefits were immediate. I discovered, out of the blue literally, an extra 45 minutes average each day; initially, I was at wits end as those 5-10 saved minutes each time I would while away , or clicking randomly on the net. Suddenly, while surfing, I chanced upon an old track – Beethoven’s 9thto; years since I had listened to it. Pretty soon, I was back to my full earlier range of music, having shed Social Media influenced forced compartmentalization. Not only that, my writing productivity and ideation went up significantly, as my thoughts were uninterrupted. The critical early morning minutes were now used up by good old-fashioned ideation, experimentation, playing and more… improved productivity.
DISTURBING TRENDS AND LESSONS
No one is arguing that Whatsapp or Social Media or Digital is bad; that it certainly isn’t. But the recent trends are disturbing – no amount of whatsapping or SMing can replace a good strong personal bond- which is only acquired after long personal meetings & phone conversations – be it family, or be it business. Whatsapp and the like should be the icing on the cake – not the cake itself. Trouble is that it is increasingly becoming the cake itself . If you don’t meet, one day, relationships will be taken for granted; the bonds will go slowly weaker. That is unavoidable. There is no substitute for the personal touch. This is now percolating even in Business – with at times, even the personal meeting replaced! This is massively counterproductive.
WHAT IS COMMUNICATION?
Successful communication is an Audio-Visual complex mechanism; our brains read each situation through the written word, spoken word, tonality, pitch, face, expressions, body language, twitches, eyes and much more. It then uses this against the previously stored archive of experiences garnered through previous interchanges to give deep insights, understanding and eventual comprehension. No amount of texting on SM & Emailing can replace this. Sure – this personal touch costs time and money, be it family, or be it business. But there really is no other way to go about it.
HOW TO ACTUALLY USE MODERN TECHNOLOGY
Does the above mean modern technology has no use? Decidedly no – quite the reverse. Modern technology can massively facilitate this entire process; else how would you sell to the United States or Singapore from within India, for example? You can use Video as a proxy for the personal meeting, as another example; this works both in Business and Family, so why don’t we use it more often?
The technology is present – it depends on how you use it. Using digital strategically & smartly for defined old-world business objectives is what will determine the real growth in the organizations of the future, not blindly just to cut costs or such like. And for the personal thing – well, use technology to meet, chat, video chat – but don’t forget the personal touch. Do that, and you ensure personal relationships go stale … out of sight is out of mind… do that at your own risk. Use technology – DON’T LET IT USE YOU!