You’re navigating traffic and can’t help but peak into your neighbour's car. His head is bowed and it looks like he’s offering a prayer. But of course he is — to his BlackBerry. Texting, thumbing through e-mails or even seemingly talking to themselves (bluetooth wise), it’s like they’re all praying to the universal God, of well, technology.
Recently, a Chinese man scripted his own death after he played online games continuously for three days without eating or sleeping. He died of exhaustion. In another incident, an infant died of neglect when his parents were busy raising a virtual child online.
No wonder then that Technology Anonymous is the latest self-help group to hit mankind. Techno-addicts spend most of their time consumed in their gadgets and have little or no interest in interacting with the real world.
From Bollywood celebs on Twitter to the neighborhood aunty uploading kitty party pictures on Facebook, Kindles, BlackBerries, iPods and what-have-you-nots, urban India seems to be consumed by tech-addiction.
Take for example bio-technology student Arun Kale who’s been bitten by the Apple bug. “The only special person in my life is my Mac-Book. Not only do I work on it, I play games, read e-books, socialise, shop and sometimes even sleep with it,” he says. “And the best part is that I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my house.”
Kale isn’t alone. Sofalising — socialising from the comfort of your sofa has become the solipsistic emblem of our age. In an effort to slow down in our fast-paced lives, a project called Sabbath Manifesto offers an unplugging App-a tech help to get rid of tech addictions. Ironical isn’t it?
Psychologist Kersi Chovda of Bombay Psychological Society explains, “With Facebook and Twitter, the necessity of active social interaction has reduced drastically. We would ping a ‘I miss you’ but would not actually drive across town to see someone.”
That is the paradox of digital life. Social networks, which were supposed to facilitate socialising, are actually isolating people.
Technology has come to dominate our lives in such a way that it has replaced all our fun activities. For example, if you’re seen with a paperback of Catcher in the Rye, you are considered passé but if you read it on the Kindle or even on the iPad, you are e-savvy and modern.
A self-confessed eBay-addict, 24-year-old Alisha loves online shopping sites for their variety and exclusivity. With a penchant for rare antiques and designer clothes, her collection can put a celebrity wardrobe to shame.
Not a fan of the mall culture, Grover maintains that online shopping is a better and greener way to shop, “While my girlfriends come home tired from a shopping spree from brick and mortar stores, I grab a beer, plonk myself in front of my computer and buy the best things at the click of a mouse.”
Grover feels that there’s a sense of adventure in online shopping. “I like hunting down rare objects and eBay is like this huge garage sale, where you come across things, which might be rubbish for some, but meaningful to you. It’s where I sell my rubbish and buy rubbish from others,” she adds.
Grover also loves the accessibility of online stores and admits that she’s online pretty much the whole day, “I love shopping, I can’t imagine not doing it. It does give me an inexplicable high to get my hands on an item after defeating other bidders. I do have a lot of junk, but I can always auction it off at eBay again!” she says.
While most 10-year-olds are besotted with their barbies, Treya Sharma is in love with her mom’s iPhone. Fun applications such as 3D Moon Globe or my Homework app, the student of Suncity World School is spoiled for choice. “iPhone apps are so cool. I learnt about the solar system with the Cosmic Discoveries app. It was so much fun and I got an A in my science test,” she says.
Educational apps are becoming a rage worldwide with kids who are opting iPhones visuals over picture books. Treya spends almost four hours a day on the iPhone.
As more parents ditch ‘old-school’ parenting methods, it’s no surprise that technology based learning is the next big thing. “Of course that means that my daughter spends a lot of time on the phone, she’s also learning a lot,” says her mother Manjari Sharma. “But I agree that Treya is addicted to apps, in fact whenever I coax her to go play, she throws a tantrum. I think it’s time to strike a healthy balance.”
After a hard day at work, there’s nothing better than a round of boxing,” says 29-year-old Vivek Mishra as he plonks himself in front of his XBOX 360 to play his favourite game Fighters Uncaged, a combat game where you can throw punches for real.
With motion sensing technology, gaming is not just about 3D visuals and punching the keys. The experience has become more ‘physical’ and interactive. The latest gaming technology can detect your hand movements in 3D space. “The new motion-sensing game needs a lot of stamina and can be exhausting as it actually puts you in the shoes of Rocky Balboa,” he says, while taking a sip of an energy drink.
Busy lifestyles only allow a few to play their favourite sport, but with a gaming device, you can use skill and experience the adrenaline rush of sports in the comfort of your home. It’s no wonder then, according to Microsoft, five years after its launch, there are more than 40 million Xbox 360s in homes and 23 million paying subscribers for Xbox Live.
Tired of looking at me carrying books around everywhere, my husband decided to gift me a Kindle,” says Manju Anand, a professor of economics. “I’d be lugging them around everywhere from dinners to the college and even on vacations.” A self-confessed bookworm, she is smitten by her Booksy — the pet name she’s given her
The reason, she says, she loves her Kindle so much, is because she can carry an entire library around without looking like a complete dork. With a library of over 2,500 electronic books, this 34-year-old can’t help but feel smug. “It fits in my purse with ease and no one has a clue I am carrying the love of my life,” she says.
Inspite of being a bookstore regular, she hasn’t seen the inside of a bookstore for over a year now, but still manages to read the best books in the market. “I have never thought twice about buying a book. But given the choice with an e-book, I don’t have to burn a hole in my pocket. E-books are cheaper, and are available in so many formats. I’ve been able to find the rarest of books on Amazon,” she adds.
While she misses the feel of a paperback sometimes she is happy that her pet peeve is eco-friendly. “You don’t have to kill a few trees for each book, and you also save on the ink.”
More than this, Kindle has made a great change in her teaching style. Sometimes while teaching she used to find it difficult to cite the correct sources, but now she just bookmarks what’s important and fishes out the Kindle for help. “It’s like this gadget is a god-send during lectures, and I don’t even have to scribble in the margins,” she says.
Though Kindle is ‘the most awesome thing in her life’, it’s actually becoming an issue in her personal relationships, “I spend around 8-10 hours reading on Kindle, it’s becoming a problem as I tend to procrastinate things, avoid talking to friends — all because I prefer it over other company,” she says ruefully.