A woman finds Aladdin's magic lamp. She starts rubbing it and a genie appears. The woman asks him to grant four wishes: “1. I want my husband to have eyes only for me, 2. I want to be the only one in his life, 3. I want him to sleep always by my side, 4. I want that when he gets up in the morning I'm the first thing he grabs and takes me everywhere he goes.” The genie turns the woman into a Samsung Galaxy S4.

I came across this joke recently while checking my Facebook page from — where else — my smartphone, which may not be a Samsung Galaxy but is just as good. The joke, even as it made me smile, poked a knife of guilt. It could have well been directed at me.

But is it just a joke or an indication of a deadly addiction that is gripping us? Smoking damages the lungs. Drinking affects the liver. Gambling can make you a pauper. But addiction to smartphones could well be destroying your mind — if you are not realising it that’s because it is too early for the symptoms to show up.

Smartphones are killing your sensations to everything real: you hardly enjoy a meal because you have an eye on the phone; you hardly enjoy a beautiful sight because you are busy taking pictures so that you can put them on Facebook; you hardly enjoy real company because someone is constantly messaging you on WhatsApp; you hardly enjoy a movie because you are thinking of all the action going on in your phone while it is on the silent mode.

Of late, many people switch off their phones when they take a break. But at the back of their minds — I am sure — they must be worrying about the emails accumulating in their inboxes. Worse, when they return to their phones and find that there are hardly any emails or messages awaiting them: ‘How come I didn’t matter to the world all this while?’

Well, we have long ceased to matter in the real world. We are now certified virtual animals, our existences often decided by when we are ‘last seen’ on WhatsApp.

Keywords: WhatsAppSmartphones