When Internet burst upon the scene, who could imagine its global impact on knowledge sharing, telecommunications, commerce, education, entertainment and social peering. While this global network shrunk the world bringing the farthest bit of data (be it text, imagery or sound) within our reach, its most critical effect was on social connectivity. Academically speaking this impact should have strengthened human bonds, but its speed and versatility spawned a new generation of negativity, which turned out to be a windfall for technology freaks, aberrant whiz kids and criminals.
Today social media is turning out to be one the greatest menaces, when in the hands of people with mischief on their minds. These individuals create images and texts that proliferate disinformation at an amazing rate. The ‘dark side’ of social media generates rumors, panic, paranoia, is used for blackmail, pornography, scams and of late has become a potent weapon in the hands of enemies of state and terrorists.
Part of the internet revolution are the online videos and games, available free and accessible to anyone with the right device and the appropriate software. Medical research is split over the notion, whether use of the smart phones, tablets or computers for playing games and watching videos is good or bad for children. While both point of views have their merits and demerits, the bottom line is that stringent parental controls have got be exercised, whenever a minor is allowed to access the World Wide Web, You Tube and social media platforms.
While I am a great proponent of technological advancement, I am constrained to say that television, the computer (in all its forms) and the smartphone have effectively destroyed the traditional family unit. I have seen households seemingly entertaining guests, while their eyes are riveted on their screens and fingers are busy frantically texting stuff, as if the fortunes of the world are dependent on their messaging. I have to admit that my own children and grandchildren have been infected by this malady and there is nothing I can do except carry out discreet censoring of whatever is going on at the risk of being called intrusive. Politics too has not remained unaffected by the opportunities provided by social media platforms which are used to orally disembowel each other.
My ‘out of the box thinking’ colleague, whose sensational notions are often quoted in my weekly pieces has gone a little too far this time in suggesting that there will actually come a time, when schools and teachers shall become redundant. This will happen, when children will have everything available to them on their smart devices (he also wonders why they don’t call them appliances anymore). While I am resistant to this sci-fi like notion, I have had a detailed look at some YouTube educational videos with animated imagery and found them to be so graphic so as to render learning into something enjoyable and easy.
Another intellectually gifted friend has suddenly decided that volumes upon volumes in his study have become too difficult to handle and maintain, especially when books can be read on a simple, easy to carry virtual device. I have tried emotional blackmail on him in vain, reminding him of the ambience that books create and tradition. I have now decided to create a hole in my pocket and buy the lot from him. There are however hundreds of booklovers like him, who in their passion to embrace technology have fallen prey to the lure of on line books. As far as I am concerned, no virtual tome shall ever desecrate my study.
It appears that very soon the twitter or snap chat fad will evolve into a medium, where traditional female vendettas between adjoining rooftops in the old walled city e.g. Lahore, will be conducted through smartphones. I am eagerly (or perhaps naughtily) waiting to see the form this warfare will take and who will carry the day – the lady with the loudest voice or the one with most deft fingers (vocabularies of both contestants remaining constant).
The writer is a freelance columnist.