What is this digital age doing to us? This question is more relevant for millennials, children, youngsters etc. who have grown up in a fully digitally connected world. For the millennials, at least they had the privilege to witness a phase of great transformation when mobile phones became mainstream. Then slowly they changed to phones with colour screens, then cameras, then GPRS, then touchscreens, then 4G etc.
But there is an entire generation out there that has grown up after the 4G revolution. Millions of children use smartphones as a central part of their life. Not just smartphones, any digitally connected device plays a big part in their lives. Although it keeps them fully connected to their friends and gives them an outlet to express their personalities, I feel that children are more virtually connected to the world around them than being physically connected to it. The virtual world is slowly replacing or sometimes even taking over reality in their lives.
There were times when people used to talk about relationships that could last a lifetime and best friends who could talk to each other for hours and had relationships that were much more than just transactional. But today, we are comfortable talking to someone online than the person sitting next to us, we tend to use navigation apps rather than asking a person for directions, and we trust a random article online than the advice of our family and friends. These actions make us socially isolated, which makes way for depression and panic attacks; things that were unheard of in my younger days. Teenagers today are part of the loneliest generation ever, and I think the technological dependency of our younger generation might have something to do with this.
Call me old school, but I have always believed in friendships and relationships that last a lifetime. For the past 2 years, I have been actively pursuing philanthropic work that takes me to different parts of the world. But this doesn’t change the fact that I also run a business with my childhood buddy and partner BSN Hari. While I was away, he has been running the business by taking on all the responsibilities on himself. During my tenure as the President of Rotary Bangalore Orchards, he even contributed 1.3 Cr for urban and rural schools graduation projects. Many a time I have called him my life support system, and for good reason. Our friendship that has lasted for more than 40 years now is one of the biggest reasons behind my success as a human being, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Beyond business, our families come together as one big family and I consider Hari’s children as mine too. It is in this context that I fail to understand how machines can take over the role of real friends.
Just as the influence of connected artificial intelligence in our everyday lives in rising, human connectedness seems to be falling. We tend to give human features to things we spend time with or use more often. We name our houses, have an oddly personal relationship with our vehicles, we even scold our devices when they don’t work properly. Although these ‘things’ don’t show any emotions, we tend to get attached to them. That’s because we humans have a fundamental need to feel connected and this is where technology is replacing human communication. Our devices are always on, always listening, waiting for us to talk to them. But can they really satisfy and give us what we need? Can they answer questions that require knowledge and understanding? I guess not.
A good friend is concerned about your well-being and knows what answers you need – even if they are not the ones you want or expect. I know that people are complicated, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt about friendship is that to make it last you must hang in, stay in touch, fight for them and let them fight for you. That’s how we have evolved over thousands of years, and that’s how we’ll evolve into the future.