We will remain a generation of idiots, unless we get it together

Published: May 27, 2015


PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: REUTERS Interaction proved impossible when everyone on the train was playing with their phones. 

During my holiday in Singapore, I had the chance of seeing the world-renowned show Songs of the Sea at Sentosa Island. In between the show, I noticed a teenager sitting beside me. I turned to him and said,

“You could have watched this on Youtube if you had to watch it through an artificial lens.”

He was a tourist, just like me, except he was recording the entire show on his iPhone from the moment it commenced till the end. He looked at me as if I were a disinhibited moron, talking nonsense to strangers.

With the advent of digital photography, the opportunities to take infinite pictures are just a click away. I wonder if the cost of collecting memories comes at the cost of losing out on the moment right then. In an attempt to capture the precious times on our hard drive, we are failing to imprint them on our minds.

The tenderness of a kiss, the warmth of a hug, the delight of cutting a birthday cake, and the joy of a surprise present, are all spoilt when they’re interrupted time and time again for the most perfect shot, later to be edited and posted on a social forum.

To experience true ecstasy and rapture, we must first indulge in the moment – and if we do that, the memory will be engraved on our minds forever, even if it comes at the cost of missing out on a picture with a perfect pout.

On a lighter note, I wonder if the evil queen in Snow White would have needed the mystical mirror in 2015 – a few selfies a day with an iPhone would have sufficed for her.

Before the cell phone pandemic, strangers turned into acquaintances and acquaintances into friends during bus rides and early morning runs. Gradually, with the advent of these electronics, the physical interaction between humans dropped down to a head nod and now it has virtually reduced to an occasional eye contact. Whether I am standing in a queue to catch the bus, sitting in a park or the staff dining room at work, I see people drowned in their phones, with their fingers frantically pacing on the screens. If extreme pre-occupation with a particular object and impaired social interaction with lack of eye contact are cardinal signs of autism, most of us may easily be diagnosed with it then.

Albert Einstein is attributed to have said,

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”.

Irrespective of whether this is true or not, I wonder, if by ‘idiots’ Einstein meant people who felt gratified when others called their Photoshopped pictures ‘stunning’, lovers who expressed their feelings through status updates, parents who enjoyed candy crush while their child played with an imaginary friend, people who spent more time taking new pictures rather than cherishing the old ones, those who reached out for their phones first thing in the morning instead of their partner’s hand, the ones who notified hundreds of people of leaving their houses unattended for a holiday, those who responded more promptly to the beep of a WhatsApp message rather than a  knock at their door or those who dined at tables which had the same number of cell phones as dinner plates?

The global village is becoming an increasingly bizarre place. Here, humans tweet and phones buzz, neighbours are far and strangers are nearer, parks are empty and bicycles rusty, computers are used to keep children still, Farmville is ‘played’ far away from the farms and computer screens let the criminals in but keep the family out.

It is about time we let go of our iPhones and iPads for a while and played a bit of ‘Wii’. ‘Charge’ relationships and ‘connect’ with those who truly matter. Let the emotions soak in and forget the ‘click’ in order to remember the moment. Let the children play tag and hopscotch, for streets are still safer than the screens.

Pull out those ear phones and hear the birds tweet, bees buzz and humans talk.

Kiran Zafar

Kiran Zafar

A graduate of King Edward Medical College and member of the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health and Advanced Fellowship Trainee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, she currently resides in Queensland and tweets as @drkiranzafar (twitter.com/drkiranzafar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • human

    I have nothing to add to what Eienstein has already very rightly said. The human element of society has eroded and robot element has emerged. I feel so happy to be no part of this generation.Recommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi

    No Ms. Zafar the kid was doing what comes naturally, in this day and age.
    It is now second nature for everyone to carry their electronic device at all
    times. Just recently saw two youngsters [brothers] barely 7 and 8 with their
    own iPads ! [Hope you went to Raffles, and the Night Zoo during your visit]
    The world is a vastly different place. As you rightfully noted in your blog.
    You can say technology is advancing at breakneck pace. This same video
    capabilities of a cell phone help exposed the savage treatment of minorities,
    at the hands of the police in USA. Not once or twice, but numerous times.
    It also recorded the Lawyers beating up policemen in Punjab. Or a mob gleefully
    burning a schizophrenic accused of blasphemy, as the police stood and watched.Recommend

  • meanie

    Your holiday in Singapore was very relevant. Thanks for sharing.Recommend

  • Commemtator

    It is the age of technology and we cannot hide ourselves from it. Serious relationships start and end with simple text messages. Young people believe and take it seriously the meanings behind selfies, messages, tweets, facebook status etc.Recommend

  • Feroz

    Social interaction skills are losing out as people drown in their devices.Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    We will remain a generation of idiots, unless we don’t get it together? Really??

    To the author and editor, please read that statement to yourselves repeatedly until you don’t realise that it doesn’t make any sense.Recommend

  • forced2

    Some of them ( especially girls) just pretend to be looking down at a smartphone while they stroll about just to avoid making eye-contact with anybody.Recommend

  • Stranger

    A little correction, the post attributed to Albert Einstein is not authentic. So please don’t believe everything you read on social media. Below is the link:

  • Keen Observer

    To be honest I think its a bit regressive to think the changes humankind is going through due to the influence of technology is making them ‘stupid’. The same could was said about the ‘idiot box’ – all of us grew up watching TV completely hooked! That hasn’t made people stupid, we have some truly smart people around.
    This is a societal trend, we’d be wiser to see the merits in it and think of ways to turn it to our advantage rather than the perceived flaws.Recommend