So near yet so far, thanks to tech­nol­ogy

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS -

Spring Fes­ti­val, which falls on Satur­day this year, is com­ing. In a few­days, the fes­ti­val will be cel­e­brated with fam­ily re­unions and par­ties. Yet today the par­ties are dif­fer­ent than they used to be. Peo­ple are not to­gether in the same home, but in­stead gather to­gether in cy­berspace.

It is an­other symp­tom of the so-called smart­phone re­liance syn­drome. For many peo­ple the first thing they do af­ter wak­ing up in the morn­ing is pick­ing up their smart­phone and the last thing they do be­fore they go sleep is putting it down.

We use the smart­phone in of­fice, at home, even on the road; we play with it while eat­ing, drink­ing, even while bathing. But re­ally it is not the fault of our smart­phones, which were cre­ated to help us com­mu­ni­cate with one an­other and bring more con­ve­nience to our lives. For in re­al­ity that is what smart­phones do: We can now chat live with peo­ple tens of thou­sands of kilo­me­ters away with un­prece­dented con­ve­nience.

But iron­i­cally, we feel more dis­tanced from each other in the real world. The rea­son is that we have more choices now, and we have to keep up with vir­tual con­ver­sa­tions for fear that we will miss out on some­thing. We no longer have to pre­tend to be in­ter­ested in some­one stand­ing be­fore us, be­cause we can just in­ter­act with some­one more in­ter­est­ing some­where else.

Smart­phones and other smart de­vices have rev­o­lu­tion­ized the waywe in­ter­act with each other more rad­i­cally than any­body could have imag­ined. We have adapted to the tech­nol­ogy, not vice versa.

How­ever, one group risks be­ing left be­hind by this trend. The el­derly in our so­ci­ety do not ac­cept newtech­nolo­gies as fast as the younger gen­er­a­tion and they can not en­joy the con­ve­nience of new tech­nolo­gies in the same way. Very fewse­niors know how to use a smart­phone, and the ma­jor cell­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers have all de­vel­oped spe­cial cell­phones with only ba­sic func­tions to suit their needs.

They even don’t ac­cess the in­ter­net much. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey re­port of the in­ter­net in China, re­leased by China In­ter­net Net­work In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, there were 731 mil­lion ne­ti­zens by the end of 2016, but only 4 per­cent of them were above the age of 60.

The el­derly face the lone­li­ness of be­ing “left be­hind” by their chil­dren who work in cities far away. Spring Fes­ti­val is al­most the only chance for them to talk with the younger gen­er­a­tion, yet smart­phones de­prive them of this op­por­tu­nity.

The only way the younger and el­der gen­er­a­tions can mean­ing­fully in­ter­act is if the for­mer put down their smart­phones dur­ing this Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day and talk with their older rel­a­tives face to face.

And by do­ing so, we will also be do­ing our­selves a fa­vor. To­daywe are the dig­i­tal pioneers, but we won’t be in 30 years. It is our chil­dren that will be blaz­ing a trail with the lat­est tech­nolo­gies, and we, slow to ac­cept newthings, will be left to our own de­vices.

If we hope our chil­dren will talk with us 30 years later, we need to set a good ex­am­ple for them now.

The only way the younger and el­der gen­er­a­tions can mean­ing­fully in­ter­act is if the for­mer put down their smart­phones ...

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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