Benito Vacio

Connections old and new

How social media and technology have affected our lives.

Before the wide use of internet, sms and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, people communicated less efficiently. They could send messages via postcards or airmail but they could take weeks or months to reach their destinations. Long-distance calls were expensive. Sometimes people would use telegrams for emergencies or send messages through friends as couriers to make their messages reach their contacts in due time. People managed to live that way even if it was way behind what we have available to us today.

When modern technology came along, it changed people's lives. Everything became speedy and instant. The usual mails sent through the post office can now be done in a few minutes through e-mails and social media. In a few seconds, we can chat with friends and relatives via Yahoo messenger and Skype and on cell phones. The hassle of going to the telegraph office is gone. Spending a lot of money for long distance calls is no longer necessary for there are cell phones and free calls on the internet. Nowadays even three or more people can hold a conference call.

Watching TV remotely is not a problem any longer because advanced phones have access to TV programs as long as there is Wi-Fi and the signal is good. Responding to messages is really fast. Unlike postcards, airmails, telegraphs and long distance calls, the new technology is more efficient and less costly.

Despite these comforts and conveniences, the use of social media and modern gadgets has greatly affected our connection with people. One time, I invited a friend to go out with me. I was glad my friend accepted my invitation. Unfortunately, while seated on the bus, he took out his tablet and began to play a game. I was shocked. He could have set aside another time for this. As a person, I value my time with a friend, talking and sharing pleasant or unpleasant experiences but this friend of mine gave more importance to a machine. I said nothing about it and carried on with my own daydreaming until we reached where we were going.

Every time I took the BTS from Victory Monument to Asoke, I would observe a dozen people on the train. I did this six times and it confirmed my hypothesis that modern technology has tremendously affected our connections. I noted that 30 out of 72 people used gadgets, 5 people read, while the remaining 37 sat talking to companions or watching the on-board TV

Many years ago, when I was in London, I noticed that passengers on the tube train never talked to other passengers but remained in their own little world, perhaps reading or listening to music.

SMS (short message service) or text message is worth discussing in this blog too. In the late 1990s, people loved it. They were into sending messages in short forms unmindful of spelling as long as they were understood. As an English teacher, although I also did a lot of texting too, I was never at ease sending messages with wrong spelling. So if my friends texted me, I would text back and spell out the words I wanted to say.

It took a little time and it was undoubtedly slower but it made me feel good sending messages with correct spelling. That's why some of my friends would ask the spelling of common words because their brains were already used to incomplete words or missing vowels and consonants.

Even if the act of texting uses many strange words, it is still very advantageous. Take for instance an experience of a mathayom teacher: One afternoon he wanted to find Chai, a student who had missed several lessons. Near the canteen he saw Ploy, Chai's friend. Ploy said Chai was in the library and she would get him. The library was just up the stairs from where they were standing. Did Ploy go up the stairs? No, she took her cell phone and called Chai.

Another aspect of connecting via the internet is forwarding messages. When e-mail was still new, I received a lot of forwarded messages. Friends and acquaintances would forward messages like jokes, stories with lessons, and all sorts of things. Every time I received forwarded messages, I would really feel glad for they would spice up my day. Of course at times I would receive something that did not suit my taste, but just the same I appreciated the sender. In fact, when I liked the forwarded messages, I would save and send them to friends. In that case I could give their day a boost.

Forwarded e-mail messages have become less common now due to social media platforms like Facebook. My friends say that they seldom forward messages via e-mail because they could forward them in other places.

Each kind of forwarded message has different characteristics and messages are sent appropriately depending on its nature. Yes, forwarding notes, links, videos, and messages to our friends makes the world smaller and makes us all connected like a family of friends. But in forwarding messages, let's not forget authorship. Give due recognition to the author. Of course, clean and decent messages are highly commendable. They can cheer up a sad friend. They can give inspiration to a burdened soul. Messages can make anybody's day. Don't you think so?

Let's value people. They are more important than machines. Never cease to forward messages especially the inspiring ones. As one friend puts it, "They make my boring day turn into an inspiring one"


While internet helps in various ways to ease up certain transactions, what I abhor is the conduct of job interviews through computers. Said practice does not help both parties. For the applicant, it adds to the fear, specially when he is unfamiliar with the diction of the interviewer. Instead of being able to answer the question itself, the applicant becomes conscious of the language barrier. And for the interviewer, he may not be able to fully observe the applicant since he only sees the face of the applicant.

Obviously, technology still has its limitations, just like the human beings.

By Prince, MN (14th July 2014)

With the internet via computer or cellphone, there is no more excuse for people not to be updated with important news affecting their lives and not to communicate with important people.

By Normina, Smart (11th July 2014)

Conan, Aidan, Joy, Urban Man, and Philip. Thanks for the nice comments. I've noted them and I will try to put more life into my writings to meet more readers' interest. Your comments do spice up my day and move me to write more for it gives me delight to share my ideas.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi (8th July 2014)

"They make my boring day turn into an inspiring one" - TRUE...IF THE MESSAGES COME FROM SOMEONE YOU LIKE.

By CONAN, cubicle (8th July 2014)

I agree with Urbanman. It's dangerous to talk with strangers. But sometimes, you just have to keep your gadgets inside your bag as somebody might snatch them.

By Aidan, canada (8th July 2014)

I’m glad that you are somehow grateful of the existence of the internet. I feel the same. Through the net, I found jobs, earned extra income, maintained my relationship with my sister and other relatives, and of course, I found my beloved.

By JOY, pqe (8th July 2014)

As I read this and your past articles, it seems that you have so much stories and ideas to share but you appear to be withholding...preventing yourself to discuss them. Be more open. Feel free to discuss everything. Do not congest them into one short article. You are a good writer.

By Aidan, canada (8th July 2014)

Personally, while on a bus, or in long queue at a retail location, I'd prefer to text a friend, or read the news on my phone. Better than making busy talk with total strangers, or daydreaming.

But point taken, I've essentially abandoned Facebook (only go on once a week), because I came to realize much of what I was doing was a useless time suck.

You did not note the people who text while walking down the street, nearly bumping into others and being generally disruptive to others who are trying to make their way - I hate this immensely.

By UrbanMan, Near an aircon (7th July 2014)

I think you have several interesting sub-topics running through this blog Ben.

You are absolutely right what you say about how more and more, we've lost the ability to communicate with each other. I'm ashamed to say it but my wife and I are sometimes a fine example. We'll go out for lunch together and both spend an hour with our heads buried in our smartphones. As long as neither partner is truly offended, then it's OK in small doses, but the art of communication has to be kept alive.

I love modern technology and I'm active on both Facebook and Twitter as well as being busy with e-mails: however, I wonder some days if there's just TOO MUCH INFORMATION to deal with. Too many unnecessary e-mails to answer, too many tweets to read and too many Facebook photos to like. Sometimes I feel like saying 'sod it!', switching off the computer and just going fishing instead.

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (7th July 2014)

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