Gen-Next ‘lacks social skills’ as techno-isolation grips Kashmir

“We shared tea over heartfelt conversations, now smart phones have drowned out the mellowness of human voices.”

For septuagenarian Shafeeqa Bano, the life has always been a testament to the strength of family bonds and community ties. 

Shafeeqa’s journey began with a profound loss – the untimely passing of her mother, which unsettled her family. Left with the responsibility of her younger siblings, Shafeeqa found herself thrust into adulthood prematurely. She took on the challenges of household chores and agricultural work, traditionally domains dominated by men of that era.

In a time when simplicity and love were their guiding principles, Shafeeqa’s grandmother imparted a lesson that remains etched in her memory: “We should not dine in isolation but rather extend our hands to our neighbours.” 

This practice was deeply ingrained in their daily lives. They checked on their neighbours, ensured they had enough to eat, and freely shared the bounty of their kitchen gardens. 

But as time passed, Shafeeqa witnessed shifts in cultural values of Kashmir. Bonds between people became less genuine. With the advent of technology, which revolutionised the way people connect with one another, Shafeeqa saw social interactions and family engagements taking a backseat.

“We shared tea over heartfelt conversations, now smart phones have drowned out the mellowness of human voices,” Shafeeqa regrets. “I miss the days when our relatives used to visit our place quite often but now we only call each other.”

In a thought-provoking statement, Sofi Sabreena, a Sociology scholar of Kashmir University, highlights the profound effects of techno-isolation on individuals and communities, emphasizing the shift from traditional face-to-face communication to virtual interactions in today’s post-modern society. 

Sabreena points out that techno-isolation have led to a disconnection between people and their personal lives. Even in family gatherings, individuals find themselves mentally preoccupied with the problems of virtual social circles—neglecting the issues within their immediate families.

Today, she says, formal social groups predominantly favour virtual communication over real-time interactions. This shift has transformed the essence of informal face-to-face communication, making it less authentic. 

“The advent of mobile phones has made communication quick and convenient, but it cannot replace the value of face-to-face conversations,” Sabreena argues. “Real-time communication provides a sense of security and authenticity, as one can observe gestures and maintain eye contact, which is absent in virtual conversations.”

In a world increasingly dominated by virtual communication, the significance of face-to-face interactions in mental healthcare cannot be overstated. 

Dr. Umar Jan, a renowned psychiatrist, highlights the critical role that direct, in-person consultations play in diagnosing and treating mental health issues. The medico emphasizes the complexity of mental health diagnosis, explaining that it goes beyond mere words exchanged over a phone call or video chat. “A patient’s gestures and emotions which are essential diagnostic cues,” he says, “are best observed face-to-face.”

Shahnawaz Baba, an assistant professor at Kashmir University, while talking about the changing dynamics of human relationships in the contemporary era, argued that the profound transformations in society, marked by the rise of virtual communication, have redefined the way people interact and connect with one another. 

Baba contended that in the past, people were more interdependent, fostering a sense of empathy and sympathy because they spent significant time together in homogeneous communities. 

But now, he asserted, a relentless pursuit of wealth has brought an undesired social change. This shift, according to him, has eroded the quality time people used to spend together, as everything now happens through simple phone calls. 

Contrary to the belief that urbanization and colonies are to blame for the decline of social bonds, Baba pointed out that rural areas have also witnessed the erosion of these relationships. He argued that this phenomenon is not solely tied to physical locations but is a consequence of broader trends like Westernization, modernization, and capitalism.

“Virtual contact has in many ways replaced real time contact. And this is going to be the future of communication,” says Dr. Farah Quyoom, a Sociologist. “Though, with its drawbacks, real time communication especially classroom discussion and all has been changed in a world led by virtual technology.” 

The virtual communication, Dr. Quyoom continues, lacks essence or human touch. “The new generation lacks social skills because they’re engaged in a virtual world without any real face to face communication. This makes them isolated and unfit to be in circles which require face to face communication.” 

With virtual communication becoming a norm, humans gradually will start becoming isolated from each other and this will have a huge impact on the society, Dr. Quyoom concludes. “And this will impact families, social ties as well as the broader society.”

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