So close yet so far in digital age

So close yet so far in digital age

My sister Erica is using BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) to talk to our friend Christabel from Ghana. It goes to show how technology can really bring people together. Or it would, if the two weren't sitting side by side having dinner.

It seems phones have become part of every meal. At any time, I can look around and see people at the dinner table sending text messages.

But as wonderful as technology is - and as useful as it is in helping people communicate from a distance - I can't help but feel that people are missing out on what's happening in the here and now.

When something funny happens, the person on the phone looks up and wants to know what they missed. Even though they were right there.

Should we all be sitting at home texting each other - would we have better conversations?

Mobile phone ownership reached saturation point in 2002. Most of my friends had cellphones by Form Five. My first phone was small and grey, with a dancing ogre screen saver. Now I have a smartphone - I can check my e-mail, read the news, listen to music, navigate, check the weather or the time anywhere in the world ... all in the palm of my hand.

And, like everyone, I have a constant urge to check it.

When our parents were young, people arranged to meet at a certain time and place and simply expected to see the other person there.

Today, I call when I leave my home, to check that my friend, too, is leaving. I call them when I'm almost there. And then I call them when I have arrived, to check that they, too, have arrived. And if they are late? Well, I obsessively check my inbox for a reason.

Technology allows us to find people at any time of any day. It allows us to demand an explanation if they are late, and to determine how much longer we should wait for them to arrive. It's a long way from a place like rural Nepal, where, my Nepalese friend tells me, they can wait a day for someone to arrive.

Technology has had a strange effect - it's brought us closer to those far away, but we seem further from those who are closest.



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