The WhatsApp dinner party
The invention of the wheel expedited primitive economies and changed the face of commerce
In the 1980s, the fax machine (the machine which allowed documents to be sent from Riyadh to Jeddah) was talked about as though it was part of the legend of the One Thousand and One Nights. The idea was deemed impossible, even a lie, by some of those who heard about it.
A few decades before that, two men from Saudi Arabia’s al-Qassim region visited Jerusalem and saw an airplane. When they returned to Saudi Arabia, one of them enthusiastically began to tell people about the airplane saying it was an iron bird which people climbed into using a ladder. He explained how the iron bird swallowed dozens of people and flew to Beirut where it opened its mouth and those who’d been swallowed exited.
Those who heard the story made fun of it as it was unbelievable. Perhaps one of them asked: “How do you know it’s a lie?” And later answered himself: “Due to the amount of exaggeration!”
The man who narrated the story sought the help of his friend who saw the airplane with him and said: “This man will be my witness!” Everyone looked toward him and he said: “This is not true. I did not see anything!” When the two men left, the former reprimanded the latter for what he did.
“We were together and you saw it with your own eyes. Why did you say my story was a lie?” the man who narrated the story asked his friend. The latter replied and said: “It’s better if people say one of us is claiming something than to say both of us are liars! People will not believe this story even if there were ten witnesses.”
When King Abdulaziz introduced the telegram, people could not comprehend it and many claimed that jinn were behind it.
When King Abdulaziz’s first car was brought into the country, people offered fodder to the car to honor the king’s vehicle.
It took decades for inventions to change people’s lives. The invention of the wheel expedited primitive economies and changed the face of commerce.
Today, technology is advancing every hour, not every year.
It’s perhaps difficult for us to understand this acceleration but this is the face of life today – a life in which we accept a friend’s invitation to dinner but the attendees barely talk to each other except via WhatsApp!
This article was first published in Okaz on Sept. 4, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.