CONNECT WITH CAUTION

When I was in the Third Grade, I enjoyed the companionship of a wonderful friend in my class. Her father, being a doctor with the government had been transferred to the city where I lived and she had got admitted to my school. We shared two years of beautiful friendship. And then when we were in Grade Five, her father got transferred again. We both were very sad to part with each other, never knowing whether we would ever meet each other again.

Those were not the days of easy and cheap accessibility to mobile phones and internet. WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype and the like were not even in the picture. All houses were not privileged to have land phone connections also. But the good news for both of us was that we had land phones in our houses. So we exchanged our addresses and land phone numbers. And thus, began our exchange of long and short letters. We were learning letter-writing in our respective schools that time. Naturally, our letters to each other were strictly in the format that was taught by our teachers – with all the formal salutations and all. (I would never write a friendly letter so formally if I were to write one, today!)

Though we had land phones, the connectivity was not easy. Intercity calls had to be Trunk Booked. (To explain those of this present generation, intercity calls had to be routed through a common operator who would in turn connect to the required number and call you back. And so you could speak for some time with a person from another city or state.) These STD calls were tariffed at a higher price than the normal calls within the city. But, the tariff rates were much low very early in the morning and late at night.

I remember waking up at 5 o’ clock on weekends to book a call to my friend. To prevent my parents from waking up, I used to reduce the volume of the phone so that when the operator called back with the connection, the ring of the phone won’t disturb the sleep of others.

Connectivity seemed cumbersome then. But, it was exciting. The wait of a whole week to be able to chat with a friend was richly rewarding in terms of the joy and satisfaction it gave.

Fast forward twenty years . . .

The Digital Age where connectivity is just a click away has made it possible to access loved ones anytime anywhere. The whole world seems to be so small, after all. People can even participate in weddings and social functions from different parts of the world over the web. The regret of physical absence can be compensated by emotional fulfilment of one’s virtual presence on such occasions.

Its more than twenty years now, since my friend and I wrote letters to each other and made STD calls to hear each other’s voice. I have recently shifted from one city to another. Now, I no longer do I have to wake up early to book calls to my loved ones in the other city, nor do I have to write letters. ‘I am just a phone call away’, I had told them while parting. Mobile phones, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. make sure that we remain connected to each other and are a part of each other’s joys, sorrows and other life events.

While it is so exciting to get to know who is upto what, to display one’s talents and achievements, to share one’s thoughts and views, to mobilize public opinion on issues of social nature, putting personal data on the public forum is scary indeed. No matter how tight your security settings are, those in the business know how to have access to it. And no, I’m not referring to hackers only. Professional data collecting agencies can get unprofessional too. The big scandal of the Cambridge Analytica is an example that speaks for itself.

It feels so nice to see Facebook compile the whole year’s events that you have posted and present a video clipping at the end of the year or send you a reminder of what you had posted on the same date five years back. However, it is scary to realize that there are minds who are analyzing and scrutinising our posts – and they are NOT in our ‘Friends List’!

My purpose is not to scare you to an extent that you shun all social networking sites and confine yourself to your room. The intention is to caution you – ‘Beware of what you Share. What you Share, stays in There’.

Be wise enough not to share anything and everything in the social networking sites. More than the satisfaction from the number of ‘Likes’ you get, you create memories for analyzers doing their job. The information which wouldn’t harm you or others even when it gets into the hands of other parties can be comfortably shared. So, use your discretion. Don’t be hasty to upload something just because you are feeling bored and have nothing to do. Exercise restraint.

Technology sure, does make life easier and brings closer those who are miles apart. But it also pushes those who are close, far away from each other.

Let’s be wise in keeping technology under our control and not end up being controlled by it. Connectivity is an essentiality in the world today. No longer do people travel by ships for months together to cross continents. A few hours in an airline of your choice, and you can land up in any part of the world. That’s the ease and blessing of connectivity. Wisdom lies in NOT making it an excuse to increase the distance between each other, before looking for means to bridge the gap.