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High Tech but High Touch

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Listen to these very provoking words. “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” These words are attributed to the man dubbed by TIME magazine as The Man of the Century, Albert Einstein.

I am afraid that day has come. And it is only the beginning.

How many among us feel anxious, nervous, and edgy after we leave the house and realize that we forgot to bring our smartphones with us? Don’t we go back to the house just to get it? Those who are more affluent send their drivers back to the house just to get the phone.

This is funny but I also feel the same way when I walk into an establishment and they tell me they do not have any WiFi connection. You and I are being ruled by technology. We now live in what is called the “Always On” civilization.

A recent study of 200 students at Stanford University reveals that 34% rated themselves addicted to their phones; while 32% worry that they would someday be addicted.

You may be thinking, “But I am not addicted to technology.” Really? Well, just be honest with me now and answer this question. “How many times do you check your phone throughout the course of the day? How many text messages do you receive and how many do you send out?

Now, have you ever experienced that sick, uneasy feeling when, to your horror, you discover that you have not received any text, message, or call? Or that no one has written down anything on your Facebook wall? At least, not since you last checked 20 minutes ago.

Not convinced you are addicted? Here is another question. Where do you keep your cellphones at night when you go to bed? On your night stand within arm’s reach, where a book used to be sole occupant?

Maybe you’re rationalizing. You need the phone as your alarm clock. Granted. But notice, after six to eight hours of network deprivation (also called “sleep”) people still reach for their cellphones and laptops—sometimes even before swinging their feet to the floor and attending to more biologically urgent activities.

Look at the lines behind a counter. What do people do? They are texting or staring into their cellphone screens. Go to any elegant, fine dining restaurant. People may be seated opposite each other but pretty soon, I bet, many of them will pull out their cellphones and start staring at it.

Look at office meetings. While someone is giving the presentation, others in the room would be looking down toward their laps, not really admiring their shoes but peering into lighted screens on their phones.

Phones are not only used for calls or sending out messages. They are now used to kill time and much more. One function I consider a phenomenon, which the old generation I belong to can never understand, is this: Phones are now used to take pictures of the food people are about to eat!

It used to be that you prayed before you ate. Now, you take pictures.

My book FaMEALy Matters, a collaboration with food company Monde Nissin in line with its advocacy, features 50 stories of leaders and achievers and the valuable lessons they learned with their families around the dining table.

On March 16, the book got two Anvil Awards for Excellence—one for publication, the other, for its advocacy.

One of the best takeaways of the book is that it is good to impose a rule while having family dinner. The rule should be strictly implemented and it contains just two words. NO GADGETS!

Dinnertime should be spent not only in eating but also for family engagements and conversations. Mealtime is communion time, where relationships are bonded and ideas exchanged in the most affectionate way.

Yes, we live in a high-tech world, but we should never forgo high-touch, especially with the family.

Face time is always more important than screen time. We use technology but we should never allow technology to use us.

Print ed: 12/13-01/14


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