Facebook and its ilk certainly have their uses, but we have taken their use to absurd heights.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type for a printing press around 1439, he created a revolution, considered the most important of the times.

Since then there have been several discoveries, each important in its own right. However, the Social Revolution of our times with IT/Telecom and Social Networking can well be described as a quantum leap from the Gutenbergian times.

Your Open Page described this revolution well with its articles, ‘The use, misuse…and abuse of the mobile phone,' and ‘It's mobile age, nay the mobile rage,' (December 25, 2011.) The extent to which the ‘mobile rage' has taken over is evident from the manifestation of the condition known as ‘nomophobia.'

Nomophobia is an abbreviation for no-mobile-phone-phobia. This term was coined during a study conducted by the U.K. Post Office. It describes the intent anxiety suffered by users when they are not in possession of their mobile phones or even when they have to leave their mobile phones off.

One needs only to attend a ‘Cutcheri' in one of the music sabhas, where elaborate notices are displayed asking patrons to switch off mobile phones, to see how dominant the phones have become. Even in these halls, the ubiquitous cellphones are busy clicking pictures and Smart Phones are recording the lists of songs, ragas and talas presented.

This is not all; during a particularly pleasing elaboration of a melodic raga when we are lost in the soulful music we are jarred back to the present by the shrill piercing notes of an ‘un-switched-off' cellphone or, worse still, a personally selected ring tone.

The U.K. study found that more than 50 per cent of users in Britain tended to become anxious when they “lost their mobile phone, ran out of battery or credit or had no network coverage.” This anxiety compares with the high-stress life events which lead people to mental health professionals. Yet, nomophobia, when it is experienced, is not treated. Thus, a good part of the population is, at any given time, in a highly stressed state and not receiving any counselling or treatment. This leads to greater stress in other aspects of life.

While nomophobia deals with mobile phone addiction, internet addiction is no less insidious. Our society is now in a state where we communicate mainly through social networking sites such as Facebook, unless one happens to be in one's dotage and/or is a techno-Luddite.

Facebook and its ilk certainly have their uses, but we have taken their use to absurd heights. In his The Shallows — What the Internet is doing to our brains, Nicolas Carr rightly defines our brains as being subjected to an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.”

Google, in turn, is referred to as being in “the business of distractions.” I have even heard of a Rhodes Scholar saying, “why bother to read a book when you can Google the bits and pieces you need in a fraction of a second?”

Carr provides an analysis to suggest that our brains have changed over the years with each invention. I would venture to conjecture that our brains underwent a major adjustment with Gutenberg's invention since it changed the way we read.

(The writer's email ID is: mala_ashok91@yahoo.com)

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