Technology eases our lives and makes us worse than animals. The statement may sound harsh but in the age of smartphones and virtual platforms for connecting with people, most of us are indeed losing our sensitivity towards fellow humans in blood and bones. In times of death, even animals surround and mourn the demise of one of their own. But not humans, sometimes.
The image of a poor tribal man forced to carry the body of his wife, who died of tuberculosis on Wednesday, in Odisha, is proof enough that it is high time for us to contemplate if we are losing human quality of being compassionate towards others. In the name of becoming ‘smart’, are we becoming worse than animals?
True that the insensitive hospital authorities denied Dana Majhi a vehicle to carry the body as he couldn’t pay. But what about others who saw him leave the hospital with the body wrapped in old sheets on his shoulders and a sobbing young daughter walking along on a 60-km journey back home from Bhawanipatna town to Melghar village in Kalahandi’s Thuamul Rampur block.
The help came only after about a 12-km walk of pain when some Good Samaritans arranged a vehicle for the poor man, while throughout his walk scores of people watched, some even clicked photos, but none felt they can sometimes afford to help a poor man in need.
Several years ago, another Manjhi called Dasrath lost his wife as he couldn’t take her to a hospital in time as he couldn’t find any help from locals for the 70-km journey. Later, he took it upon himself to crush a mountain to shorten the distance. It took him 22 years to do so, and later also inspire a Nawazuddin Siddiqui movie in his name. We don’t live in Dasrath’s era. We have roads, smartphones, electricity…but the insensitivity that cost the life of Dasrath’s wife seems to have only intensified by now.
One ironic thing about social media is that it is always outraged at any such news that exposes human fallacies. But the outrage rarely changes people in real life. Majhi’s turmoil today too evoked the conscience of citizens of the ‘social country’, just like it did when an accident victim was robbed and left to die on the road, even as several vehicles and people passed by, in Delhi a few days ago. Not only this, there are numerous examples from Odisha and across the country when people simply don’t feel the need to help anyone.
Being selfish is also one of the qualities of human beings. In the good old days, physical interactions with others in the society helped control the selfishness to some extent. The virtual interactions these days, however, are making us more and more inward-looking, self-centered… even narcissists in the real world. This is probably because the virtual world allows us to pretend to be social and concerned about anything.
Research also shows that social media and ‘selfie culture’ is fueling narcissist tendencies of people. A study published in the journal ‘Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma’ in February this year showed that excessive use of social media can be as dangerous as an addiction to cocaine or gambling. Wonder, how can an addict help anyone in need? Another study by researchers from the University of Florence in Italy suggested that social media platforms like Facebook provide an ideal environment for the blooming of people’s narcissistic tendencies.
Is there a way out? May be. Co-author of ‘The Self Under Siege’, Lisa Firestone suggests on Psychalive.org: “Only by being less self-obsessed and placing more value on personal relating can we impart these values to the next generation.”