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POT-POURRI: Good, Bad and Ugly of Cell-phony

POT-POURRI: Good, Bad and Ugly of Cell-phony

Sentinel Digital Desk

Parag Phukan

I have emulated the title from the 1966 epic western film, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. Inimitable George Bernard Shaw said, "Science cannot solve a problem without creating ten more". The statement may sound satirical or even cynical to many of us, but it does have a huge element of truth. Technology is an extension of science. In modern times, with unprecedented advancement, technology has created innumerable tools and appliances for human conveniences and comfort but in the process also has created quite a few safety and health hazards. But today, human beings simply cannot shy away or do away with the technological boons. We are awfully enamored by them. But then, when one is aware of the nature of the 'enemy', one can prepare defenses and half the battle is won!

One of the greatest boons of technology to the mankind is mobile telephony. Among other things it has made the world a truly global village. Today, human beings world over cannot simply imagine existence without mobile phones. We have been virtually enslaved by it. But it also has many pluses. More than half of the world population is involved with mobile telephony, head over heels. The reach of mobile telephony is astounding. As per statistics (June 2019), Indians alone have about 117 crore mobile connections, Assam has over 2crore 35 lakhs with many having more than one connection. This wide range of connectivity has made our day-to-day life unimaginably smooth and easy. Networking through mobile phones is also helping us immensely in commercial, banking, digital transactions, news and views, infotainment and many other activities. Smart mobile phone instrument is virtually a computer.

Social media portals help us tremendously in networking. A man is no island. Feeling of relatedness or connectedness is a fundamental need of a human being that dictates and influences our psychological health. The essence of networking is, cultivating mutually beneficial 'win-win' relationships. It is all about knowing, liking and trusting someone. Caring and sharing is basic quality of a sincere networker. Networking also helps to make your talents known to people. As it's said, unless you blow your own trumpet occasionally, how the people will know that you have trumpet? Yet, sadly the overuse of social media is increasingly driving us away: away from healthy family bonding, from sincere relationship or even from happiness! Technological conveniences are like Aladdin's genie. Use them in a disciplined manner, they will do wonders. But any misuse or overuse would turn out to be a Frankenstein that could eat you up instead. Cybercrime is emerging as another major peril generated out of cell-phony and social media. Global annual damage on account of cybercrime is estimated to be about 500 billion USD. Research has also proved that cell phones cause severe physical health hazards due to its electromagnetic radiation.

Problems start brewing when instead of being connecting conveniences these turn into stalking tools. Many follow 'friends', or rather stalk them, to find out what they do, where they go or even where they dine! For some strange reasons, in social media sites everybody seems to be happy, all the time! Because, only the high times of a person is reflected in the posts and rarely the bad ones. Remember, a person is not as bad looking as in the passport photograph nor as great as appears in social media pictures! People also jump into a rate race with the virtual friends, compulsively, and try to emulate to be at least at par, if not one up. The more we are in the race, more unhappy we become and it starts becoming a habit to compare our lives with those of others.

This OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) finally leads them to the dreaded twenty-first century psychological 'disease' called 'FOMO' or 'Fear Of Missing Out'. As per experts, FOMO is 'a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent'. In 1996, Dr Dan Herman drew attention of the psychologists to this emerging phenomenon. In 2004, Patric McGinnis coined the abbreviated term to popularize it and it officially got added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013. FOMO has become so prevalent, especially among young adults, that some experts believe that it's turning to be a mental health epidemic with pervasive syndromes. One gets addicted to social media when one fails to control the usage to the point when these start interfering with one's personal, social and emotional existence. FOMO exerts negative influences on humans, irrespective of age groups, may contribute towards extreme dissatisfaction and detrimental effects on our physical and mental health, like, Mood swing, Loneliness, Feeling of inferiority, Reduced self esteem, Extreme social anxiety and increased levels of negativity and depression.

A 2013 survey reveals that 56 percent of people, particularly millennials, who spend average 24 hours a week online suffer from FOMO of varying degrees without their realization. But they also fail to appreciate that mobile telephony started in India only in 1995. Facebook was launched about 15 years ago. Prior to that it's not that people were grossly unconnected and unhappy. Many people are still out of fb today and they are probably happier. Because of the social media pressure youngsters feel that they have so much to do, so much to achieve with so little time in hand. First, life is not a rat-race, because we are not supposed to be rats! It's also not a race with others.

Any technological facility or convenience can give you only pleasure, never happiness. Happiness has to come from within. We are all unique with different stories. So it can only be a race with ourselves, to outshine ourselves. Since the race is captive, why panic? Let's run at our own pace, finally we are the winners!

(The author of the column is a former Vice President of Reliance Defence & Engineering Ltd., Gujarat. Presently, he is a freelance writer, management consultant and professional trainer. He can be reached at

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