I lost my grandfather today. After living a full, healthy life for 92 years with barely any of the usual afflictions of old age, he suddenly deteriorated rapidly 3 weeks ago. It was difficult for the family to watch him turn from a sprightly senior to a frail, immobile, old man. I wonder what passed through his mind in those final few hours. Like they say, does your whole life pass in front of you? Do you yearn for a time when you were younger, healthier, or is it a sense of calm accepting the inevitable? Death has a strange way of making us evaluate our lives. Of making us stop and pay attention to what’s around us. Our lives, our relationships, what really matters at the end. And I think that more often than not, what matters is the people around us.
Human beings by nature are social animals. They need to interact, to share their joys and sorrows, to love and be loved. And while the methodology of communication keeps changing over the years, the need to connect remains the same.
Like Bruce Springsteen crooned, “I just want someone to talk to, and a little of that human touch.”
In years past one had to wait for weeks or months to receive a letter from their friends and families far away. Then with technological advancements, that duration grew shorter and shorter, and now everything is just a click away. Click and you can add a friend. Click and you can delete a friend. Social Networks ushered in a new era.
The nature of relationships has changed. The online world is like a game, that you need to constantly play or update, if not, you get left behind. If your friends have thrown you a surprise birthday party, you’re more keen on ensuring you get the best pics/selfies to update your status rather than enjoying the moment or the people around you. These days, people take almost a trillion photos a year (that’s more photos every few minutes than in the entire 19th century.)
But while social networks give us access to a much larger group of people than ever before and strangers can become friends, on the flipside, sometimes friends end up becoming strangers.
I recently watched a movie by Tom Hanks called Castaway, where he is marooned on a desert island after a plane crash and though his chances of survival are bleak, his love for a woman is what keeps him going and gives him hope in an adverse situation. This movie really struck a chord because it reminded of a time when the simplicity of emotions were not yet overtaken by the complexity of technology.