The virtual wall

The virtual wall

The virtual wall

I am not talking to a wall’ - this is a common phrase that we hear nowadays. The annoyance is real and the reason seems to be simple - most of us today are so involved with our smartphones that we tend to ignore the person talking to us. This practice of ignoring one’s company in order to use one’s phone or spend time in the virtual world now has a name - ‘phubbing’ or ‘phone snubbing’.

So ironically, a device that was developed to keep everyone connected throughout the world has now taken over real life relationships. Deepa Reddy, a chef, says that it is not a healthy habit at all and admits that she too had been a victim of ‘phubbing’. She says, “I encounter ‘phubbers’ on a daily basis, especially when I am travelling in the metro where I see a lot of people constantly looking at their phones. In general, conversations today have been reduced to one word replies, which is sometimes really rude. If nothing else, ‘phubbing’ has definitely destroyed relationships.”

She hits the nail on the head when she talks about how we even avoid calling and talking to our loved ones, preferring to text them instead. “I won’t lie, I have done that too but I make an effort not to do it anymore. I also stop my friends from ‘phubbing’ others. People have become so dependent on smartphones that it has become an absolute necessity to them,” she says.

Manu S N, an engineering graduate, agrees with this. “I have cousins who are constantly on their phones whenever we meet. I feel left out; even though I am with them, I am still away from them and I can’t empathise with them. I too have unknowingly been a ‘phubber’ but not anymore,” says Manu, who has made a conscious decision to disengage himself from all social media platforms. He suggests that rather than hanging out at a coffee shop where there is free Wi-Fi, people should do something more productive.

Kala Balasubramanian, counselling psychologist and psychotherapist at ‘Inner Dawn- Counselling and Training Services’, points out that ‘any relationship is based on the foundation of communication’. She elaborates, “Connecting with people face-to-face is a mark of comfort and respect. But today, with the obsession with smartphones on the rise, it has moved from being a distraction to becoming a means of disrespecting others. In fact, there is a research which says that having a phone in hand during a conversation itself reduces the quality of the conversation. It becomes shallow and superficial.”

Asserting the fact that mobile phones are increasing the sense of loneliness among people, she says, “It eventually contributes to factors like anxiety and depression. So it is important that we make an effort to move away from technology and spend quality time with our loved ones, this will keep us grounded. It’s time we go on a digital detox and reconnect with the real world.”

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