What Makes a Virtual Family Possible?

In a letter to the editor of the “Time of India” recently I read “new system will soon make a virtual family possible.” It said that modern ‘technology abolishes emotional distance. But this fantastic idea has other implications, about which I have serious reservations. There is an axiom that, ‘No man can live as an island.’ There is no substitution for the human touch.

Almost everything we enjoy today seemed impossible yesterday. So what transforms the impossible into the possible, the possible into the probable, and the probable into the real?

When we look at the world, how mean it is! When we look at it negatively, how desolate, dull, selfish, and empty it is! But when you look at it in a positive way, how rich, interesting, beautiful and full of meaning it is! “Eyes that look are common. Eyes that see are rare,” says J. Oswald Sanders. How we position ourselves to receive the world makes all the difference. We can never see the sunrise by looking to the west. The choice is up to us. If we look at life the wrong way there is always cause for alarm. What we see depends mainly on what we look for. Some people complain because roses have thorns. Instead, ‘be thankful that thorns have roses.’

Looking at the modern global world, many people say that the new system will soon make Virtual Family Dinners possible. It is modern technology, which abolishes emotional distances. It’s a small world these days. Global markets, cheap and frequent flights, the internet and fast-paced lifestyles, have changed families and extended the boundaries of what one calls home. Living on the other side of the globe away from parents, siblings, friends and people could make themselves islands. But human beings cannot survive in isolation, “no man is an island,” and it is modern communication technology that makes emotional closeness possible.

Preventing people from studying abroad or taking jobs in other parts of the world due to deep craving for familial fostering, is not only impractical but even undesirable. Children do leave the warm nest of their sweet home some day. Physical distance no longer implies emotional distance. Nowadays, communication has become easy through e-mail, mobile phone, visual internet phone calls, and courier services. Staying in touch no longer means letter writing. Parents in India know exactly what their child in New York have had for lunch that day. Grandparents can listen to their baby grandchildren gurgle their first words on the internet.

Technology is developed to further human needs. Emotional closeness is a vital need and technology caters to it. It isn’t always possible to forge close links in one’s immediate physical environment, especially if one is hopping from one country to another on a regular basis. Strong relationships are built over time. It is almost true to say that globetrotters do not leave their dear ones behind any more. Where you are physically now is just incidental to where your heart is.

The family meal is a wonderful institution. It is an occasion to communicate, share, reflect, love and be loved. It is an auspicious moment, where one feels the physical warmth of being together. But today coming together for a family dinner is not possible in a world where parents and children are busy with their activities in different parts of the world. Modern technology may make a virtual family dinner possible. The imaginary scenario is that members of a family living in different parts of the world- one in Jakhama, another in Bangalore, a third one in New York and a fourth one in Tokyo- can, by prior arrangement sit for a meal at the same time, in fact even eat the same favorite dishes and be connected by image and voice to carry on a family conversation.

So far so good! But, I ask, is that all there is to a family dinner? Just the same kind of dishes and the conversation in which you share your thoughts and feelings with the people you love – all at a physical distance? Is not being able to the salt important? Can anything substitute human warmth and touch, which everybody thirst for?

But, does this great distance can only be good if you can only share your thoughts and live with the people you love? Is not being able to pass the salt hardly important? Is anything can substitute human warmness and touch, which every body thirsts for?

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