Let's Talk It Out!
Woman's Era|July 2021
Reviving the art of conversation.
Sujatha Rao

My toddler is already reaching out for the mobile phone!”

“My one-year-old doesn’t eat, unless I show him videos from YouTube.”

“My son knows how to operate the mobile phone better than I do, though he is only five years old.”

“My 12-year-old threw a tantrum for his own mobile phone. Finally, I gave in.”

“My teenage children hardly talk to us. Both of them are into their mobile phones day-in-and-day-out.”

These are the common refrains we have been hearing over the last few years. During the last one year, the following got added to this list:

“What else should I do? There is no school and I cannot go out and play.”

When you go through these oneliners by the parents from all walks of life, don’t you notice an evolutionary progression in them? Sadly, in most of such cases, it is the parents who start their child off on the device for reasons better known to them. However, the initial pride in the technical proficiency of their kids slowly gives way to frustration, as the so-called talent gets into an out-of-control obsession.

This is not the malady that is afflicting the children alone. This is something that has taken a deep root in our society across people of all ages and has uprooted the art of holding a meaningful conversation.

WE’RE TRAINING AND CONDITIONING A WHOLE NEW GENERATION OF PEOPLE THAT, WHEN WE ARE UNCOMFORTABLE OR LONELY OR UNCERTAIN OR AFRAID, WE HAVE A DIGITAL PACIFIER FOR OURSELVES. THAT IS KIND OF ATROPHYING OUR OWN ABILITY TO DEAL WITH THAT.

The Problem

One of the major things that seems to have contributed to this dire shortage is our fast-paced lifestyles and the constant feeling that we are racing against time all the time. Though there are many more reasons for this affliction, the following two are significant enough to be discussed in detail:

(a) Digital Media

There were >4 billion internet users in 2019 as per Global digital report, with 1 million new users getting added every day. More than 5 billion people own mobile devices in the world. 98% of Generation Z (people born between mid-nineties and early 2000s) own a smartphone.

These statistics highlight the fact that we are bombarded with a swarm of digital distractions which we get addicted to, sooner than later.

The allure of burgeoning ubiquity of interaction modes over various digital platforms such as texts, WhatsApp messages, emails, tweets, posts etc., is so strong that even the free minutes of talk-time over most of the telephone service providers are going unused.

Unfortunately, these social media platforms indirectly favour one-upmanship over equality of exchange.

And they are always on.

Always judging.

Tuning out these distractions is something the present young generation is unwilling to do. It’s a sad state of affairs that with hundreds and thousands of friends on their Facebook pages, the present generation is busy hankering after attention chasing trivial things like number of “likes” online, as they distance themselves more and more from the more important interactions of the real world.

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