MY BLOGS

Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Technology and Life

This post is a part of “Beyond Boundaries” at BlogAdda.com in association with INK 2014.

Collaborating Blogger:  Kiran Acharya  The Conchblower.blogspot.in


I am a Punekar - by birth and at heart.  I was born in ‘Aamchi Mumbai’ and grew up in Pune.  I lived all my formative years in the city, influenced by the local culture and people.  Somewhere at the ripe young age of 29, I left the city to go abroad for further studies.  It was with mixed feelings that I left.  This was my first foray into the world outside my cocooned shell.  My four and a half years abroad were the most enriching time of my life, both in terms of experiencing life and the world outside, as well as for giving me the opportunity to meet people from diverse cultures, ethnic and family backgrounds.   It was an experience I would not trade for anything in the world.

That was around the time technology was changing gradually.  Letters and telegraphic messages were being replaced by fax.  STD and International dialling were gaining popularity despite the high costs.  I remember missing home and family a lot and wanting to talk to my parents to share the ups and downs of my life with them.  As a student on a stipend, I had to be extremely careful with my money and would call say 2-3 times in extremely desperate times – and that with a guilty conscience.  Companies selling international calls for a fraction of the regular price started making their presence felt and that came as a relief for people like me.
 
The advent of electronic typewriters and computers gradually made the conventional typewriter obsolete.  User friendly versions of operating systems like Windows were replacing the maddening DOS version.  However, computer technology was still the domain of professionals.  It had yet to touch the lives of the common person, many of whom still had major mental blocks about touching a computer.  As a researcher, I had my own computer and I remember kids coming and playing games on my desk top. Internet had also slowly started touching the lives of common people – e mail services were already in vogue. 

The advent of social networks during the early 2000’s took the world as we knew it by storm.
Unlike me, who experienced the phase of change, my fellow blogger, Kiran, who lives in Mumbai, belongs to the generation which was born during this period of technological revolution and has this experience to share:  “The advent of social networking in India which started during my college days, started off like a whiff of fresh air and took our stagnant minds by storm.  For me, it started with ‘Orkut’ which was used initially only to connect with friends;, the network expanded as did the definition of friends. Friends were no longer the people you meet regularly at college or go for a movie with. The term expanded to include many people whom you haven’t even met. They didn’t have to be the same age, or stay in your region, sometimes your viewpoint differed too. The thread which tied us was common interests in the same subjects.”

Somewhere around the time all this was happening, I returned to India and ‘settled down’.  (Oh how I hate that word!  It sounds like slush or mud that settles and decays.)  Anyway, I moved to a new city after getting married.  For 15 long years, I had many acquaintances, but no real ‘friends’ to speak of – at least not in the sense I understand the word and this, despite being a working woman with exposure to the world outside the home.  I had to deal with my self-doubts, doubts about my social skills or lack of it by reminding myself that I was the same person who had so many friends at home as well abroad.  It was just that I did not jell with the social and cultural ethos of the city. 
 
My use of technology during this phase of my life was restricted to my professional needs.  As a teacher, it was good to be able to give a search on Google for supplementary teaching material.
Strange as it might sound, it was around this time that illness ‘fortunately’ struck and I was grounded for almost 3 years, going out only if my life depended on it; (oh, no worries!  I have not lost it - the tough phase has not softened me in my head).  My only ‘outings’ were to the hospital for checkups for myself, to tend to my mom who had a surgery for a broken hip and later on to the home for Alzheimer’s patients to visit her when she was admitted there.  That would be 3 - 4 times a week.  It was enough reason for anyone to go into depression or lose it altogether.  But I was lucky. 

A couple of friends introduced me to the world of social networking – Facebook and a women’s networking site called Indusladies.com.  That was the beginning of a new phase of my life.  I started writing on the ladies’ site and the transformation in my life had to be experienced to be believed.  For one, I got to express my views on various topics freely.  I found it to be a very enriching experience, getting to know other people and their perspectives through their writings, responses and interactions on line.  “Birds of a feather flock together”.  I found a number of friends there.    It is often said that people in the virtual world are very different from what they are in real life.  Well, I don’t deny that risk, but from my personal experience, I found the opposite to be true.  Often, people in the real world need to put on a mask, whereas they can be their real selves behind the protective screen of anonymity online.   

I met and got to know some of these friends in person and some of them have even come and spent 3-4 days with me at my place.  They were exactly as they appeared to be in the virtual world.  It is not as if I did not come across some twerps, but then one cut them off and got on with life.  I would not miss making all the friends that I did, just for fear of meeting a handful of nitwits.  Many of these friendships have transcended the virtual space.  How can I forget the time when I was in the ICU after spinal surgery and my “virtual friends” kept calling to find out how I was doing, talking to me when I could and helping me keep up my spirits!  I, too, was so addicted to the site; I found it hard to be off line.  I managed to get my notebook into the ICU and blogged the day after surgery – a 4 part blog about the experience.  ("A Story of a Valentine's Day And A Few Days That Followed"The response was overwhelming.  From concerned enquiries to exhortations to take rest, I did not feel the lack of friends or relatives by my side during that time. 

There was so much support, mental and emotional when I was reeling under the impact of my mother’s illness.  How many of my ‘virtual’ friends have come to help me when she was in hospital and in the home!  There was so much of emotional support when she eventually passed on 3 months ago. 

It has been really nice to get to know some people from other countries through online games.  Apart from the games, there have been many chat sessions too.  Many a sleepless night has been spent chatting with friends across time zones, making the dreary hours easier to bear.  Not seldom have I been asked by them why I am awake so late and been told to go to bed “NOW”. :-D  Why should they care?

The opportunity to make a lot of friends in specific groups based on shared interests, ranging from poetry, to books to cooking and food, on Facebook has also been a very good experience.

Apart from all this, I discovered some new skills and with the encouragement of these ‘strangers’ or ‘virtual friends’, whichever way one likes to look at them – I prefer the latter – I started developing those; first and foremost I grew more savvy about using computer applications.  It was a great step, just overcoming a major mental block.  I found my passion for writing and some amateur photography.  The fact that I have people, with whom I can share these, encourages me to develop those hobbies even more.  In fact, three of my stories were published in an anthology just 3 days ago.  It was such a thrilling moment.  I now hope to hone that skill further.

Blogging brought me in touch with a lot of other bloggers, young and old.  The experience is what unites all of us, across the board.  Kiran’s experience bolsters my statement.   “Then, I started blogging, reading other blogs and connecting with bloggers. Reading blogs introduced) me to complete new kind of travel experience - armchair travel.  As a tourist, one travels to places and gathers information provided by the tourist guide; but most of the times, one merely scratches the surface. One can’t capture the ethos of the place in just one visit. But, when you see the world through the eyes of the regional blogger, you get to see a different world.  Instead of visiting a place, the place comes visiting and reveals its secrets. Then, when you travel to the place, it somehow seems more beautiful and meaningful.

Earlier, only a few people could express their views and the rest would accept whichever argument was more convincing to them. There was no scope for interactive discussions.  Freedom of expression has now got a new meaning; people don’t just have the freedom, but also the means of expression. Blogging has made it easier for everyone to share their thoughts. Instead of a debate between two opposing viewpoints, we now have multiple perspectives due to contribution of diverse ideas.

Stereotyping is so common in social interactions leads to many misconceptions. For example, myths about ‘lack of morals’ based on what is seen in movies are not unknown.  Within India, all North Indians refer to all South Indians as ‘Madrasis’ just the way, all North Indians are frequently blanketed under the description ‘Hindikara’ meaning Hindi speaking people. The fact that the culture varies even within these regions was not clear.  Advent of technology gave everyone the chance to get in touch with  people who stay in other areas and realise that hardly anyone conforms to a stereotype. People are learning the value of accepting others and, getting to know about  their culture, instead of abusing them with preconceived notions.”

This is entirely about how technology has helped me grow on a personal level.  Talking of technology on a general level, I cannot but help feeling overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of information that is available today, to every person at the tap of a key.  It has opened up a new world to kids who learn so much, thanks to the exposure they get.  I remember my school days, when what we read was dictated by the books that were available in the school or public libraries, that too subject to availability.  Today, Google and Wikipedia have turned into the human versions of “akashic records.”  ‘Ask and you shall know’ seems to be the modern day mantra.  So much so that “Google” has changed from a proper noun to a verb.  I love ‘googling’ for information. :-D  A friend with a literary bent of mind referred to Google as the present day Jeeves!

‘Skype’ is one more marvel of the modern world.  It is like having people walk in to your room for a chat whenever you wish them to be there – the modern version of Aladdin’s magic lamp.  It is so good to see young people today, being able to go where they will and still being able to communicate with near and dear ones at home without having to spend a dime.  It is such a boon to parents whose children have flown the nest for far off climes.  The feeling of connection over distances is indeed comforting.

How many times did I wish I could take my parents abroad just to share all my experiences and the beautiful places I got to see!  Had they been there today, all I would have needed to do would have been to transport them using a smart phone!

Talking of parents and smart phones, it is such a wonderful feeling these days to see people in their 60s and 70s keeping themselves mentally engaged and active on the net.  Tablets, I-phones, smart phones.....  Many of them use the Internet to share their knowledge, experience and talents with people around the world.  Where is the scope to get bored?

Internet has come as a boon to both young and old when it comes to shopping online for everything under the sun.  No need to go running to the market to buy furniture, groceries or anything for that matter.  It is available at the click of a button.  No need to trouble children or depend on them to do your shopping for you.

Many housewives are finding a degree of financial independence, thanks to ‘work from home’ schemes on the internet.  Looking for directions and all human beings can give you are vague instructions?  Why bother to ask them?  Check out your GPS.  Want to find an address or a phone number?  Ask Google.

Everyone says that learning is a lifelong experience but as you grow older, you develop some fixed notions and find it difficult to change them.  However, rapidly changing technology keeps on pouring information into your lap without giving your thoughts a chance to ‘settle down. It’s becoming difficult for anyone to claim knowledge of everything due to the pace at which knowledge is increasing. According to Socrates, “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Technology is certainly, doing its best to make us wiser.

Indeed, technology has changed the world to a global village.  (All that is now left, it seems, is for people to be teleported wherever they wish to go! :-D)  It has brought people closer and opened the door to cross-cultural understanding and will hopefully be the harbinger of world peace some day.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting post. Technology has changed our life, outlook perception, for good or for bad.

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    1. Thanks Harish. Good or bad depends on how it is used. :-D

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  2. A wonderful post Swati ji.

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    1. Thanks Kiran. Enjoyed collaborating with you. :-D Look forward to more such ventures.

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  3. Technology has its advantages, but also problems. It, for example, has brought work into our homes and makes people work in the nights and Sundays. There is a price to pay for advances in technology!

    Destination Infinity

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    1. True Rajesh. There are some things we need to learn how to balance, but other things like work are often not in one's hands in this era of pink slips.

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