No replacing the personal touch

OUR ability to network has greatly improved thanks to technology, but how meaningful is this connection?

On the night of April 2, I was browsing for movies on Netflix when my cellphone buzzed.

It was a message from a friend wishing me a blessed Ramadan and happy fasting.

Shortly after, more of such messages poured in and by midnight, I had received at least 10 similar messages.

They all included a photo of the sender next to a generic greeting, which I knew was forwarded to everyone on their contact list.

This was not the first time that I received wishes this way. They are common during festive seasons.

I miss the old days when we write, not type, or in my case forward, our wishes to people.

Messaging apps have made it easier for us to communicate but they have made it less personal too.

As a child, I always made cards for my favourite teachers as a tribute to them on Teachers Day on May 16.Armed with some manila cards, “magic colour pens”, a pair of scissors and glue, it was my chance to unleash my creativity.

After having poured my artistry into making a card, I would then start working on the message.

Sometimes it was a poem, other times it was a heartfelt letter, thanking my teacher for all her hard work.

You can tell how a person feels about you based on what and how they write.

A person’s handwriting, in addition, gives you a glimpse of their personality – as my Bahasa Malaysia teacher once told me.

For me, if a sender has put a lot of thought into it, then it is a meaningful message.

This is why a handmade card is better than a store-bought one.

The former is made with love and dedication, while the latter is commonly obtained out of convenience.

Unfortunately, both have gone out of fashion, thanks to the advent of technology.

Electronic cards are now commonplace because they eliminate the need for ink and paper.

But messages on such cards tend to lack the personal touch.

The messages that I described earlier in this story did not even carry my name.

That told me that the thought process behind them did not include anything more than clicking “Forward to”.

One message that I got even carried another person’s photo instead of the sender’s!

The person who sent that message quickly deleted it.

A friend has pointed out to me that it takes a lot of effort to make electronic cards too.

But because such cards are meant for many people, the message has to be kept as general as possible to appeal to a wider audience.

Electronic cards, although hassle-free to send, do not reflect a person’s vulnerability or emotions nor provide a real sense of connection.

The focus is on the sender and not on the recipient, which is not the way it is supposed to be.

Smartphones and tablets may have given us more tools to connect with each other but that does not mean we have become better at it.They flood us with myriad items throughout the day, which pull our attention in many different directions.

We have less time to pause, collect our thoughts and craft a proper message for the people we care about.

Perhaps it is time we rethink who in our lives truly matter and who are simply names saved on our phone.

Two weeks from now, Ramadan will end and the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivity will begin.

Maybe this year, I will get handmade cards.

It is unlikely, but I can hope.

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