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  CM 00/01

Hello?

'Beep! Beep!' The ever familiar ringing tone of a nearby cell phone. The communications revolution have come a far way from the days of Alexander Graham Bell and these days i find that we've stopped talking to one another.

I was talking face-to-face with a friend over the cafeteria table, and his mobile phone rang, interrupting our conversation. In an instant, I became invisible, absent in front of my friend. He, on the other hand, was engaged in 'phone talking'.

I took a look around, quite a number of people were talking on their cellphones. They were sitting in front of friends without looking at them, talking, noticing what they were eating or reading. Evidently, the electronic voice is much more preferred over human contact.

The telephone used to connect us to those that were absent. Now it makes people sitting next to you feel absent. Recently I was in a car with 3 other friends. Just as I was to start a conversation, one of the mobile phone rang. The owner shushed us because his connection was faulty and he could not hear the person on the other end. There we were, four friends zooming down the highway, unable to talk all because of a gadget designed to make communication easier.

Have you ever wonder why is it that the more connected we get, the more disconnected we feel? No more do we feel the intimacy of human interaction. With e-mail and instant messaging over the Internet, we can now commuicate without seeing or talking to one another. With voice mail, it made things more easier. If my Mum had a question, I just leave my answer on her machine.Entire conversations can be done without ever reaching anyone. Amazing? I think not.

With contact between humans getting more and more automated, the alienation level goes up. You can't even call a person to get the phone number of another person anymore. By just pressing a few keys, you would have your answer. We don't even have to memorize any phone number as it's all inside our automated phone book.

Making a withdrawal at the bank? Why talk with a teller who might be your neighbour when you can just insert your card into the ATM?

Pumping petrol? Why bother saying 'Good morning' when you can just swipe your credit card at the pump and save yourself the trouble of engaging in small talk?

Pretty soon, you can order your groceries through online shopping. You won't have to burden yourself with those check-out people who might ask how you are doing. Avoidance would be the key to our life.

I'm no perfectionist either. I own a mobile phone, an ATM card, a few e-mail accounts and not to mention the countless of short messages I usually send to my girlfriend. Giving them up isn't an option, they are great for what they are intended to do. It's their unintended consequences that make me shudder.

So I've put myself on technology restriction : no instant messaging with friends who live near me, no talking on the mobile phone in the presence of my friends, no calling my friends on the phone when I know perfectly well we could go out and have a chat during the weekends.

What good is all those latest communications gizmos and gadgets devoted to keeping me in touch is making me lonelier as a human?

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