By the looks of it, this generation, connected like never before, has everything going for it. They can keep in touch with their friends right from school, get to know what each one is doing without having to make the effort of individually contacting them. All they have to do is follow the status updates Facebook or their professional progress on Linked-in. There’s no effort required to maintain relationships. Not even to pick up a phone and make conversation every once in a while. From the PC screen to the mobile screen, they are always ‘in touch’. So, does it lead to closer friendships and more sharing? It’s just the opposite. Distant acquaintances now have the status of friends. There’s very little time for meaningful interactions if at all. The more ‘friends’ we have, the less connected we are.
It’s in our genes. From the time we were hunter-gatherers, we did not have societies aggregating more than 150 people, on an average. We needed to stay together to cooperate and hunt for survival, but human memory maxed out at 150. Beyond that, we simply don’t have the faculty to stay focused on relationships. A pride of lions ranges anywhere from 6-15, and the maximum observed has been 25. This depends primarily on the availability of prey. Now take this into the human context. We no longer have to depend on a set of friends for survival. Our relationships may be scattered across the world when the friends we grew up with pursuing careers in a distant country. With the communication methods available at our fingertips, we can technically be in touch in an instant. But there is a tremendous resistance to nurturing those relationships because they are shorn of ‘face time’. All said and done, we still prefer human company to ‘Hangouts’ on Google. There was a time when families made friends on long train journeys across India. For as long as 72 hours, they were thrown into close proximity with each other. They shared food, anecdotes, banter and by the end of the journey knew more about each other than they would about other relations. There’s nothing like the confines of a train to test the limits of tolerance and acceptance. Today, train journeys have become shorter and flights longer. We fly across the world in silence, watching the interplay of human emotions on film screens in front of us. We don’t know or care who our fellow travelers are. The seating is such that you can only see the people by your side and not those in front of you.
There’s the paradox. We have conquered distance in the real world but in our minds, we’ve grown more distant that any other generation before us. And that isn’t something to be proud about.