Technology is ever expanding. We can reach out to people thousands of miles away, connecting over passions, challenges, opinions and values. But it also limits us: the people close to us can feel a world away. Instead of oceans, we’re detached by screens.
We’re more connected than ever. But many of us feel more disconnected and lonely than ever too.
However, comedian and actor Shafaat Ali believes that technology is not to be blamed in this. “Social media is not the villain we have made it,” he said.
Ali was one of the four panelists invited at a discussion titled, ‘The age of Social Media: Connected or Disconnected’, at the SMIU-DICE Creative Arts and Media Summit and Exhibition at Karachi’s Expo Centre on Tuesday.
He was of the view that through social media, people get to interact with like-minded individuals which results in their social growth. “If Abdus Salam had gotten the right social interaction, he wouldn’t have gone into social isolation,” Ali added.
Tazeen Hussain, HOD of the Department of Communication Designs at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, argued that people need human interaction, more than being connected online.
“What the human touch enables, technology doesn’t,” she said. “Empathy is something we miss out on and to build technology that incorporates empathy could be the right combination.”
Hussain stressed the need for regulating the social media, so that the people know their restrictions and can’t just post anything they want to. “We need to create a balance between regulation and free thinking,” she pointed out.
Ali, however, claimed that if people’s thinking is limited, one would not get creativity from them.
“We need free thinkers and lesser restrictions, specifically those pertaining to religion and geographical reasons. If children aren’t given the scope to question, they will not grow,” he remarked.
Ali explained the importance of counter-narrative, but said the way people raise their voice matters. “If someone talks about change in a rude and abusive manner, there are very less chances that people will listen to them.”
Imran Zuberi, the Karachi School of Arts’ executive director, remarked that social media is the best that has happened to them. “It has opened a door of endless possibilities,” he said, adding that people could now start their own business and connect with potential customers very easily.
Zuberi said that “not the use, but the misuse of social media is what is damaging”. He explained that there should be a line drawn between how we should use it and what things should be avoided.
Zuberi noted that students have a lot more resources available today and have the opportunity to share their work with the world. “If you’re good at something, you can get recognition and even sell your work online.”
Hussain highlighted the need for open-ended opportunities in educational institutes. “Our evaluation system gives priority to only practical things,” she said, adding that we need room for creativity but also need to educate people about self-regulating themselves.
She said that external regulation would always discourage people’s thought process, so it should be the responsibility of educational institutes to instill into students the basic ethical values so they can be the judge of themselves.