It came as a pleasant surprise to see that my nephew looks like me. I should have known earlier, of course, but he has only just looked up from his phone. It is many years since I have seen his face. It was a warm, family moment. I was moved, and he was able to give his neck and eyes and fingers a rest.
I am not one of those fuddy duddies who complain that children spend too much time bent over their phones and miss out on real life. I have lived real life all my years, and I can tell you they are not missing much. Staring at phones gives young people a purpose in life which I lacked at their age. People are strange. When I was growing up, parents urged their children to come in from outside where they were busy playing soccer or cricket or whatever. Now my generation tells children to go out and play and not spend so much time indoors.
The new generation is nothing like the old. For one, researchers in Queensland, Australia, tell us they are developing horn-like spikes at the back of their skulls caused by the forward tilt of the head. Smartphones, they say, are changing the human form thanks to what they call “text neck”. I have no issues with that. I mean, we have been carrying the same type of skulls around for millennia now. It is time for a change. Other experts who are not in Queensland, however, say this is all wrong and it is not so easy to grow horns.
Thanks to smartphone addiction, teenagers are less rebellious, less likely to talk rudely to elders and make bringing up children easy. They sit in a corner, you water them a couple of times a week, and before you know it they are ready to leave home and sit in some other corner. Who can have a problem with that? Meanwhile, we can be ourselves at all times, dressing how we want, meeting whom we want and leaving our hair and beard unkempt because no one is looking up from their phones anyway. Shoes, ties, shirts, who cares?
Youngsters have killed the art of conversation, said a cousin. But my conversations with him usually consists of a series of grunts and banalities like:
“Hey, uhm…did you know our neighbour had a baby?” I don’t respond and he goes on, “Born on a Wednesday, I think….may have been a Friday…”
I don’t care. But he is relentless, “Err..what do you think…? Do you…ahem….coffee….courier…” I cannot figure this out and end the conversation by sneezing loudly and leaving the room. And we want our youngsters to imitate adult conversation?
Someday soon, technology will replace the phone calendar with physical diaries; there will be cameras not attached to phones and postcards which can be used to send messages. Some scientists, I am told, are even working on radios which will help us listen to podcasts. Science fiction?
More from Suresh Menon: