Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The evils of chatting

Stumbled across a talk show today. The topic of the discussion was 'the internet and the youth'. It featured a showdown between a group of teenagers and a panel of parents, teachers and adults of the society. The crime of the youth was that they over-indulged in all internet-related activities - be it research, surfing, downloading or chatting. The youth of Pakistan is just spending too much time in front of the box called a computer. These activities are not only 'anti-social in nature', but implied an 'overload of information' that the youth is not yet ready to absorb.

More often than not, the discussion gravitated towards the 'evils of chatting'. The parents were irked by the fact that their children were making 'cyber' friends - they were concerned about the influence these 'cyber' friends would have on their kids. Interaction with the opposite sex, came up repeatedly. And so did the possibility of exposure to porn and the likes (but of course in minced words) . Some of the young adults asked why would you want to be friends with someone you can't feel or see?

Come to think of it, 'chatting' is looked down on in our society. Over time it had become synonymous with seeking out 'girlfriends' and 'boyfriends' - a concept largely taboo in the Pakistani society. And it is also true that it is the prime means for 'making friendship' amongst the boys and young men alike. It has become an addiction of sorts.

This raises two important questions for me.

One, why is the interaction between opposite sexes such a taboo matter? Why is it still the forbidden fruit which the youth is tempted to test? More than debating the evils of chatting, the elders of our society need to address the constrictive nature of society. There is nothing wrong with the intermingling of genders - it is but a natural part of our lives. So why do we have to make such a lot of hue and cry over it? Why do we curb the interaction between the two gender from the tender age of 10? Why is it just so taboo?

Two, what are the other modes of entertainment for the youth? There is not much for the young to do with their spare time. Either they have the option of sitting at home watching TV and cable (which is considered equally bad an addiction) or of becoming the slaves of the computer machine. Cricket is probably the only game that is played on a somewhat organised level. But that's about it. Where would you go to hang around with your friends and mingle with others, if there are no other avenues available? Can we really blame the youth over this count? Is it not the responsibility of parent ans society to ensure they are able to spend their time in a constructive yet fun way?

Having said all of this, I also think that the concerns of the elders of our society are also a little exaggerated. Their concerns about being exposed to too much information (and inappropriate matter too) at young ages is total crap. If they deem it to be so bad, then is it not their responsibility that they become part of their children's world? Forget the concept of becoming a 'friend' to the child, ought they not to do it jsut for guidance. Maybe through such efforts they will be able to find some common ground and discover that the world of the internet is not so evil after all.