Electronic Gadgets And The Human Psyche
Last night I dreamt. In my dream, I was once again a 12-year-old boy sitting in Paravathy mam’s Chemistry class in the 7th grade. Parvathi mam had once again caught me day-dreaming. Her stentorian voice broke through my reverie, ‘Jai can you tell me the chemical reaction which produces laughing gas as one of the by-products?’ The academically bright students in the back benches sniggered in derision. No one expected me to answer. True to form I stared at Parvathi mam blankly. After a few minutes, unable to bear her eyes boring through me I averted my glance and looked down at my notebook (containing pages made of paper).
Suddenly a thought struck me. I will find out the answer from Google Uncle, I decided. I wrote the words ‘http://www.google.co.in’ on a line in a page of my notebook and began looking around for the enter key on the page. I could not find one. As a replacement, I banged the nib of my leaky fountain pen hard at the end of the line to form a dot. I imagined that would serve the purpose of the enter key. Nothing happened. The usual Google search box did not turn up on the page of my notebook. Suddenly I realized this was a piece of paper and not a browser on a computer screen. My teacher looked at me and said ‘Boy, can’t you answer this simple question? You have been day-dreaming ever since the class began.’
I immediately rummaged in my dirty school bag for my mobile. Alas, I could not find a mobile in there. With a sinking feeling, I realized I would once again be marched to the Principal’s room. True to form Parvathy mam thundered, ‘You moron, always day-dreaming. You are simply not interested in studies, are you? We will meet the Principal during recess and we will see what he has to say.’ I nodded glumly.
Suddenly my iPhone echoed its shrill summons and I sat up in my bed with a jerk. It was morning. As usual, I reached out for my iPhone and checked the time. It was 5.45 AM. My first impulse was to check for emails and messages on my iPhone. Suddenly I stopped myself as I remembered my dream. The more I thought of my dream the more I realized what computers and all the electronic gadgets I had surrounded myself with had done to my psyche. It was frightening. The habits I had formed with these gadgets had even slipped into my subconscious mind and percolated all the way down to the times when I was a dumb kid in 7th grade.
Albeit in a dream, I had tried to emulate in my notebook (consisting entirely of pages made of paper) what I did in a browser. And this during times when gadgets like computers and mobiles simply did not exist. I was in my 7th grade in 1978. That was 40 years back. I suddenly realized that doctors and psychiatrists were definitely not kidding us when they issue warnings about the harmful effects of electronic gadgets. Admittedly computers have become an indelible part of our lives. I began my career in 1988. I was initially into marketing. But marketing did not work for me as I ruffled too many feathers.
I later moved over to a career in information technology. For nearly 27 years I have been working on computers for nearly 10 hours every day on an average. To me, editors have taken the place of the notebooks of my 7th grade and the leaky fountain pen has been replaced by the keyboard. And I also read books through electronic media. If I need any information I no longer head to the library in search of books. Instead, I sit with my laptop and open the Chrome browser. But my dream last night has brought out the harsh reality to me. I realize these electronic gadgets are affecting my grey matter.
Understandably technological advancements have helped humankind immensely. The revolutions in every field of science like Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Astronomy and even subjects like History and Politics are mainly due to the introduction of computers. A marvel like the Burj Khalifa has largely been built using computer modelling. Blast furnaces, Bessemer converters and steel plants use computers to control processes. In airports control systems use computers. Distribution of tickets for almost every means of transport except perhaps local buses is done using computers.
We have added computing abilities to handheld devices like mobiles. You want to transfer money to a relative or a friend in need you can do so at the click of a button. You can use your mobiles to spend time during flight travel. All to the good. I do not deny that it is a step in the right direction. But I shudder to think of the effects these gadgets are having on our brains. Psychiatrists have warned that sitting constantly in front of computers is extremely harmful to the brain. The rays from your computer screens have a direct impact on the brain cells. Our brain is capable of retaining computer images that lead to all kinds of psychiatric complications. The use of mobile phones has given rise to newer kinds of psychological illnesses.
We hear of so many cases of accidents on Indian roads because people speak on mobile phones while driving. Recently psychiatrists have defined a new mental ailment called Nomophobia. This is defined as the irrational fear of being out of cellular contact. I find a lot of youngsters constantly on the phone in the corridors of my office building. All this is leading us to a health epidemic of mammoth proportions. So, what is the solution? Obviously, we can’t get rid of gadgets altogether and indeed I also think it would be foolish to suggest that.
The need of the hour is to moderate. Fond parents, buy children in grade schools’ mobile phones. I am afraid I cringe with mortification to say that I too am guilty of allowing my daughter to use my mobile phone frequently. So much so, that she has taken over my WhatsApp profile. We need to have a good amount of self-discipline. We also need to make sure that we do not allow young children to use mobiles. We need to try and minimize the time we spend in front of the computer.
Indulging in outdoor activities like swimming, walking, playing games like badminton and tennis would also keep us away from our mobiles. Needless to say, we have to leave our mobiles at home when we go in for such activities. And a conscious effort from individuals to limit the use of electronic gadgets to as little as possible would help. Easier said than done but as responsible human beings, we have to make an effort not only for our own health but also for our children’s health and for a better society on the whole.