Abha Dawesar: Life in the “digital now”

The TED Talk speech is presented by Abha Dawesar, a novelist with an Indian background, who lives in Manhattan. She delivers a powerful speech on the topic “Life in the “digital now”. In her speech, she argues that due to the technological progress that has made our lives so much easier and better, we are paying the most precious price of time. According to the speaker, the digital presence has made us obsessed with it, forsaking reality. Moreover, the speaker mentions that the digital now is distracting us from living the present, since it engages us to leave everything we are doing at the moment to spend some more time online. Abha argues that we are given the choice of freedom, but it is useless when it is for its own sake. In her speech, the speaker summarizes that the time spent online kills the experience of real-time, knowledge, and love.

The idea of Abha’s speech is to get back to the essence of life and think about the real priceless values that we exchange for practically useless procrastination of reality. Abha gives a variety of examples from her real-life experience with her loved ones and things she has learned from them. Mrs. Dawesar explains that today we have access to an immense database of information, but the experience of learning it means nothing in comparison to how the information was perceived just about some 20-30 years ago. She states that the digital presence kills the essence of feeling. The digital now is a parallel form of our reality that destroys our ability to experience and perception of time, knowledge and love.

First, the digital presence destroys the perception of time. Spending hours surfing on the internet, we sometimes lose track of time. While performing a task, such as reading a book, we are suggested to live out all the rest and try to perform similar activities, such as read a similar book, comment on its content, suggest it to a friend, discuss it, find people who read this, or a similar book, talk with them. All of this happens online, and we are glued to the screen of our devices. Abha states that we are challenged to live in two parallel streams, while one of them is distracting us from living in the other one, much more real. She leaves the audience with the question: How does one live inside destruction?

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Second, the digital presence destroys the perception of knowledge. The speaker mentions her grandparents and her light memories about how they taught her different things. The novelist reminds us what it is like to remember something because you have a strong emotional attachment to a situation. She states that she could easily learn the same material today using the internet because there is such a possibility, but it would not be the same. The fact of perceiving knowledge, as we know it, is real when it is not merely wrapped with information and facts. Today the knowledge can be easily stored in the databases, archived, but the current moments cannot.

Third, the digital presence destroys the perception of love. The speaker argues that in the current time, we desensitize the essence of our feelings, replace them with a digital presence. We exchange the emotional component for chunks of data. While the information may be compiled into databases and can be stored in order to be retrieved later on, the feelings cannot. In real life, there is no button “buy now”, since things happen in the time they need to happen. While the digital presence cannibalizes the time that they need, we are left with less and less time to perceive, feel, and love.

Even though Abha states some very powerful and relevant points in her speech, I think that she brings up her personal experience too much. Personal references from her own life make the audience lose the point she was talking about previously, even though the points seem very relevant to the speech. The fact that Abha’s examples take too long make the speech change in register and tone from an informative speech into a narrative. Such an approach would be acceptable for a novel, yet is not appropriate for a speech.

Abha Dawesar delivers a very powerful, emotionally charged with love, condescendence, and a little grief about her long lost past that has taken away the people she loved, the experiences she had. Yet, with her amazing rhetoric, she makes us feel what she is talking about and motivates to enjoy the presence of life, instead of the digital streamline we are all so attached to. A strong and confident speech combines ethos, pathos, and logos in the subject of Abha, who knows how to use the words to deliver the message. It is an eye-opening speech that wants to make pull away from the screens and enjoy the real now, instead of the digital present. It really makes us want to take our time back.

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