BACK IN THE DAYS, WE LOOKED OUT FOR EACH OTHER, WE COMMUNALLY OWNED what belonged to everyone, in the sense that we could defend the property against third parties or intruders. Our children belonged to everyone, in the sense that they could be corrected and smacked, if they did anything wrong, without the correcting party necessarily being their parent. You couldn’t buy anything that was not for your age without disclosing the names of the person who sent you. If there was any shadow of doubt about who sent for the item, the shop wouldn’t sell. They would insist the person came by himself to buy it.

I recall riding my bicycle roughly once as a kid. I almost got knocked over by a car. The police was called to the scene and I almost got picked up by a police van for reckless riding at that age. A Good Samaritan intervened, pleaded on my behalf, informed the police that he knew me. He lied. But he saved my blushes. The police released my bicycle back to me. The Good Samaritan rode his own bicycle beside me and scolded me all the way. I kept telling him in my mind, that he had made his point and should just let me be. But he wasn’t about to let me out of his sight for another police interrogation. I got to my premises but I stopped by the gate hoping this Good Samaritan would just beat it. He refused and sensed I must be near home. So he inquired from the neighbors which was my house. He rode in and lodged a report to my parents. I was grounded.

Technology and civilization has changed so many things today. Since the advent of the smartphone and tablets, we have lost our family members, friends and neighbors. We now have virtual friends and everyone wakes up to say good morning to their tablets and devices and hardly pays any attention to details of family members, friends and neighbors. I’ve seen families at diner at restaurants crouched to their smart devices and nibbling their food. Any questions asked was like an interruption which was quickly answered and returned back to the virtual world.

We don’t even know our neighbors’ names, who they are, what they do for a living or who their family members are. In some countries, the fences are so high we cage ourselves into our homes. The best I’ve seen in some neighborhood is a friendly smile and a wave.

As children, we could have our next meal in the neighbor’s house. If we played and got tired, it was okay to sleep there. During festive seasons, our parents would cook for the entire community, literally. They would dish the meals and take in different bowls from house to house, we would also receive meals from other homes. We had varieties to eat from and we could compare which we liked best. Later in the evening, we would wash the dishes and return them to their owners. Sometimes, we mixed up who owned what and would eventually have them all sorted.

I’ve lived in my new neighborhood for about six months now, I do not know the names of my neighbors and I imagine the same for them. Everyone just minds their businesses and hardly do people visit people anymore. We all live inside the phones, laptops, and tablets. If we wanted to know how our family member was faring we just Whatsapp the fellow. If we wanted to see the person, we just FaceTime the person or Skype the fellow and that’s good enough. We praise technology that we do not need to travel thousands of miles anymore to see friends and family members.

Before now, it was a thing of joy and pride to drive out to go visit friends and family members. We would spend quality time and have meals together. This gave us room to see actually how our friends were faring and if they needed any help we would render it. I met a friend after seeing her last in four years, but we had been in touch by tablets. She said she was very ill and near death and we had no idea. She looked a shadow of herself. I was sorry, but this is the intrusion and disruption technology has served us.

I have asked myself how do we get our lives back. It seems like a very foolish question because technology isn’t about to let us slip from its grip. It seems like a desperate attempt to ensure humans do not interact with themselves anymore going forward. In the aircraft, if they do not inundate you with latest movies you have not seen before to keep you busy for 16 hours flight, they deal you WiFi 35,000 feet above sea level with USB charging ports so you plug and play your devices and seal your ears with large ear buds. Your next seat Neighbour does the same for the entire duration of flights. It seem like people only now meet and introduce themselves virtually. “If you want to meet me, introduce yourself via fb or LinkedIn and I might consider accepting your invitation to add you as friends”. Nothing short of that seems acceptable anymore.

Are we then surprised our relationships are hitting the rocks? Are we then surprised that we are drifting from our families. Children say good morning to their folks now and within minutes they are on Cartoon Network. If they try to interact with their parents, they get cautioned that the parents are busy on the tablets or devices. Parents can’t answer questions from their children anymore. They do not know it. They have to google everything. The children begin to wonder why google isn’t their parents since that’s where all the answers come from. Some families try by making ground rules such as, no smart devices after 6.00pm. It’s family times. Even if they don’t have anything to say to each other, they keep staring at each other until sometime comes up to talk about. Now, that’s a good start. If we don’t work consciously on this, imagine where we will be in 20 years from now……

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