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A social catastrophe?

  • Published at 11:59 pm February 14th, 2019
We get more distant by the day / <b>BIGSTOCK</b>
We get more distant by the day / BIGSTOCK

We have lost something in this digital age

The invention of zero changed everything. The combination of one and zero as binaries has made all digital devices so powerful that today, a thousand miles is only a key press away. 

It is almost impossible for one to live without using some type of digital gadget every day. In such a digitized life, people rarely miss one another, no matter how far or near. To greet, they barely talk; rather, they exchange words through a digital device.

The influence of digitization is so strong that a couple living under the same roof is slowly becoming strangers to each other. Human cravings for physical meetings and exchange of physical greetings have been overshadowed by the practices of digital interaction. 

The cognitive revolution through which human beings turned into homo sapiens, and learned to live as a social cluster, is reversing. The question is: Is life in the digital age reducing the distance between two human beings, or increasing it?

The larger social cluster or community is under constant threat of the digital revolution. The disappearance of the joint family, work engagements, unbearable traffic system, etc have expanded the physical distance within social clusters. 

The necessity of meeting between two human beings is constantly shrinking, due to aforementioned realities. But the age old practice of some social rituals does compel them to assemble to keep the social cluster alive no matter what the size. 

A digital life also largely affects societal values and traditions. For example, marriages and funerals have undergone so much transformation because of the digital revolution. 

For generations, the rituals followed in marriages were similar in nature for all, regardless of economic standing. The marriage ceremony used to be the meeting place for the living generations of different age groups. 

One would meet not only his or her close relations, but even the distant ones. The age old formal recognition of new relationship between the two families, or gathering blessings by the bride and groom from the elderly members of both families were key events of the festival. 

The culture of the marriage ceremony is now aligned towards new rituals dictated by the heartless digital system. The endless photographic sessions between the invitees and bride and groom outweigh other social needs. The relatives hardly get the chance to declare the bond created by this new relationship. Nor does it inspire the bride and groom to collect blessings from their elders. 

A larger group of people do not even find time to get close to the couple, either to felicitate or shower blessings. They would rather put themselves in front of a camera. The digital life doesn’t care if the value of the ritual is lost.

Funerals have experienced a harsher shift. The religious temperament of the funeral ceremony has been reformed by a novel digital character. I was confounded by how homage is paid at funerals nowadays. 

A relative of the deceased was seen to be capturing the journey of the funeral on their camera rather than breaking into tears. Some of the closest friends of the deceased were busy capturing shots of the burial of the corpse instead of chanting verses from the scripture.

Tears do not accompany the funeral march any more. None, but only the corpse-bearer chants the holy verses. The heartless digital capture of the funeral journey eventually goes viral on some kind of digital platform within a short time. 

Many may mourn, but others make light of the matter. Mourning has become a thing of the past in this digital age. 

AF Jaglul Ahmed is a freelance contributor to Dhaka Tribune.

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