Kids these daysOn a recent afternoon, as I whiled away my time having sliced mangoes in the canteen of the school where I teach, one of my students, a confident-looking fourth grader, came to me and asked, “Miss, can you please send me a friend request on Facebook?”
On a recent afternoon, as I whiled away my time having sliced mangoes in the canteen of the school where I teach, one of my students, a confident-looking fourth grader, came to me and asked, “Miss, can you please send me a friend request on Facebook?”
I smirked a little and thoroughly observed this audacious little girl who had asked me to do something that I rarely do voluntarily. I don’t send ‘friend requests’ to anyone unless the person in question is my crush or someone I look up to.
I’d have brushed off her demand with a straight-up ‘No’ if she were a little older or if I were who I was a couple of years ago. Curious, I asked, “You mean, your Facebook, right?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
Having overheard our conversation, a jolly classmate of hers, a small stout boy approaching his puberty, joined in and with his mouth stuffed with mangoes bragged, “Miss, I have three different accounts on Facebook. The first one, I forgot the password; the second one, I deactivated because mom knew about it; I still use the third one. Please do send me a request too, will you?”
In no time, all kids amassed to gloat about their Facebook accounts and informed me about the sorts of gadgets they’ve been using. They also confided how they wished to get a better, upgraded version of those gadgets. They knew all about the specs that their phones come with and the specs they want in their new phones. They were acquainted with famous ‘vloggers’, gamers, gadget reviewers and were using futuristic apps that were unknown to me.
Listening to these kids talk excitedly about their tech fetishes, I went back in time. When I was a fourth-grader, even the existence of Google—a powerful tool capable of answering any possible question conjured up by mankind, was a rumour. A rumour that was confirmed only after we visited the one friend who had a computer at his house. One day, my friends and I clustered around his computer as he performed his tricks. He first clicked a fireball-like blue object (which I later found out was the Mozilla Firefox browser). He typed something very quickly and the big colourful letters GOOGLE appeared on the screen. Under the letters was a bar where he typed the word ‘Nepal’. In no time, a long description, which would have taken hours to write in hand, appeared in front of us. We were enamored. Google actually knew everything!
Owning any mobile set, especially a Nokia 6600 with Bluetooth facility and expandable memory was my ultimate dream back then. I had inherited the Nokia 6260 from my elder sister. I still remember that ecstatic moment when I realised I had a phone of my own. I would play the 2D car race game on my phone for hours. I felt like I owned the game and the tech world.
But that feeling didn’t last long. As my friends started boasting about their new cellphones, sporting big flat screens, I only became dissatisfied with my gadget. I was not into ‘who owns the best?’ race, but somewhere deep inside, I yearned to get the better model of the phone, especially the one with a ‘touch-screen’. This one time, I even prudently cut the picture of a mobile set out of a newspaper, glued it on a wooden piece and made a ‘touch-screen’ phone of my own. It may sound crazy, but it was a self-made, advanced toy phone which would provide pleasure, albeit fleeting, to me.
I got my own touch-screen phone after a year’s wait and it is with that device that I signed up for my first Facebook account. The first thing that I did was upload a picture of Bollywood actress Illeana D Cruz, who my friends said I look like. I feared writing statuses then, as I do now, but I would upload plenty of photos of mine and of celebrities I admired such as Taylor Swift and Atif Aslam. All those notification bells, the overflowing Facebook requests, the late night conversations with ‘friends’ soon made my social media life both hectic and part of my daily routine.
I was only a teenager when I first started talking to this guy. . He had a beautiful profile picture—clean shaved Aryan face, lived in Dubai, and he swore he was captivated by my profile picture. Within few weeks of constant chatting, he put forward a marriage proposal. Thank goodness, I had a sister who looked out for me and stopped me from taking any such horrible decision.
Good old times. Little did I know back then that the technology would only advance in the years to come. Little did I know that the kids these days would get access to technology so much earlier in their lives than we ever did. My fourth-graders are undoubtedly keener in terms of handling these technological innovations. I am proud of them. I have no problem at all watching these children enjoy their utmost technological freedom, but I am also concerned.
The real concern here is their monitoring. As their exposure to technology increases, the inner and outer personalities are being shaped by the use of these devices. The immediate effect might not be visible, but it certainly molds a person’s conduct in the long run.
As of now, the little girl has convinced me to be the part of her virtual world. Let’s see what world she has created for herself, online.
Gautam is a BA third-year student at Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus