Albert Einstein had said: “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”.

I am nobody to comment on the validity or otherwise of the views expressed by the great genius about technology and the adjective he used for the generations that were to come after him.

Nevertheless, his apprehension has raised a pertinent question for discussion: Has technology really overtaken or sidestepped human interaction?

As things stand today, technology is improving virtually every day at an unbelievable speed. It is reflected in the phenomenal expansion in the field of social networking with the help of cellphones, computers, Facebook etcetera.

Undeniably, this development is making things easier and handy for us. These gadgets have proved to be the most effective means for creating mass awareness. As such, they have become a rage with people of all age groups, predominantly the youth.

It is no small thing that technology has brought the world closer. People sitting in the remotest corner of the earth are able to communicate with each other with a speed that was unthinkable till a few years back. Not only words but coloured pictures travel with the speed of electricity.

Isn’t it a heart-warming experience for a soldier posted on the war-front to see his just-born child in some hospital and talk to his wife live on the screen via Skype and the like? They betray the same emotions on the screen that they would have expressed if they were together. Or for that matter, imagine the feeling of grandparents in India on seeing their grandchild born in the US! What a noble thought indeed! Thanks to technology.

However, there is a flipside to it. Technology has made our relationships totally impersonal. We are getting distant. Now, instead of greeting and embracing somebody, we send an email, or an e-card or even an SMS. And the job is done. Where is that warmth of a hug or the few words of love and affection spoken face to face or over the phone?

For almost all users, these gadgets have become an addiction. People clutching a cellphone in the palm or communicating through earpieces while walking or travelling is a common sight. Statistics shows that an average user possesses two sets, the other one waiting in the pocket for its turn to be taken out.

Even at night, the inseparable cellphones rest by the side of the user’s pillow. They give company everywhere — even inside the loo! Compulsions of the times! People keep clicking it most of the time, giving no respite to the poor little thing. In fact, they become restless if it does not ring for a brief period.

Etiquette and basic manners are the biggest casualties of this innovation. A call over the cellphone could interrupt your animated discussion on some business proposal or make you leave the dining table disregarding basic etiquette.

If the user forgets to switch it off or put it on silent or the vibrator mode, it can ring loudly at odd times and in odd situations, causing acute embarrassment. A boisterous film song-based tone may turn many a disapproving eye at a seminar or funeral. Believe me, it actually happens.

An instrument provided by a company to its executive does not allow him a sound sleep because a call from the boss could drive him out of his bed on an assignment. If not the boss, SMS jokes, ads or wrong numbers could harass you at any time of the day or night and drive you mad.

In an attempt to compensate the absence of human emotions that are manifested physically, cellphones have emoticons. These are used to tell the person on the other side whether we are smiling, laughing, crying, are surprised, overjoyed or sad. In a way, these emoticons are the first cousins of sign language.

However, they cannot convey the real spirit of one’s feelings.

Yet another baneful aspect is that those who remain glued to gadgets for long hours invite obesity and related problems and more importantly damage their vision.

Notwithstanding these negative aspects, many would go with the view that technology is a boon and say there can be no escape from technological strides if one has to move with the times.

Internet, being the greatest gift of the technological revolution, is slowly but steadily changing common man’s lifestyle. Whether it is transferring money through banks, within the country or from overseas within seconds, paying bills, booking railway or airline tickets etc, the Internet makes it all possible.

Emails have elbowed out the cumbersome and time-consuming postal equivalent.

One of the greatest advantages offered by Internet is the saving of paper that was otherwise needed for printing statements, writing books or storing enormous amount of data. Now, one need not buy paper and then preserve them carefully for the future. Internet does it all — and for free.

Interestingly, reports say that some computer surfers and Facebook posters have got disillusioned, describing their activity as sheer waste of time and have announced their retirement from these. So far, cellphones seem to be OK though.

So how do we describe technology — as a boon or bane?

Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.