The growing social isolation

The growing social isolation

Ibraheem Alammar
Listen. Listen intently. Are you listening to this? You’re not hearing anything? Total silence?
Well, good, that means your hearing is excellent, because this silence is the new motto of family gatherings!
What happened? In the past, families gathered; and I mean they really gathered — they shared laughs, stories and conversations. He’s making a joke, she’s telling an anecdote, those are laughing, others are discussing. A real family atmosphere where people sit together, listen to each other, look at each other; they are together in a true sense of the word.
But now this has changed, thanks to the Internet and mobile phones. Families do gather on special occasions and friends to hang out but the settings are dead. Gradually, modern technology has crept into those special moments and poisoned them. This was not a problem in the past, before mobile phones became ubiquitous, where at most; a person received a call on the land line and often finished it quickly, telling the caller, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m with family.”
Today, we’re 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Families sit in one place, but the priority is given to the cellphone. One person comes in, says hi to everyone, they all say hi back, “How are you?” after some small talk he or she sits, and only a few minutes later everyone’s staring at their cell phones. You try to get the attention of any of those people who are way too deep into another world — games, instant conversations, social media — they look up from the phone, give you a brief smile and a cursory response, then submerge themselves again into the cold digital world. Total obsession.
Ironic. The purpose of these machines is to connect people, but the actual result is that modern technology is one of the biggest factors in disconnecting people. Smart phones and tablets are now a social plague, frantically pushing people away from each other. Yes, there is a positive side, where people separated by long distances can converse and catch up, but the bigger effect is that technology is hurting social and familial relations more than it helps. You’re sitting next to a friend or family member, but instead of giving you their attention, they are reading tweets, checking statuses, going through pictures, chatting on instant messaging, etc. Shouldn’t you have more priority? You are there, flesh and blood, fully present in mind and body. But the digital vampire is sinking its fangs into human relations and sucking the life out of them. Why?
That’s the question I ask myself whenever I attend a family meeting or a meeting with friends, and minutes later I say their hands going into their pockets to take out those despicable devices, causing the phone-obsessed people to spend hours with others and yet go back home not remembering anything of what was said or even who was there!
Family gatherings and socializing should not be like this. This is not “spending time with family and friends” in any way. Sometimes, I wish technology would just pack up and leave us alone.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view