Can I ask you a question? A personal one? Do you think that the internet has enriched your life? Do you think that it has made your social connections stronger or has it made you feel more alone? In 2012 Sherry Turkle used her Ted talk to put forward the notion that although the internet has made us all connection, we can still feel very alone.
Connected, but alone?
The title of Sherry’s ted talk is Connected, but alone? Think about that for a moment. Never in history have we been more tangled in each other’s lives. We get real time status updates, of important, and not-so important (but entertaining) milestones such as birth announcements or the fact that Jimmy from work just polished off the entire first season of Breaking Bad in one day. Kudos to him.
We are also bystanders witnessing blossoming romances as love notes are swapped through status updates. We congratulate the happy coupling, aww you two are so sweet.
We are there too when that blossoming love crumbles away and all that remains is passive aggressive vague status updates, that are really character assassinations, the byproduct of a broken heart . We have our chin-up type messages ready to pump out for these situations.
Sherry has spent over fifteen years studying the technologies of mobile communication and interviews hundreds of peoples about their “plugged in lives” and what she found out was that “ those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.”
Banner manners are no longer taboo
What concerns me is that gradually over the years antisocial phone behaviour that was seen as bad manners, is now not only accepted, but seen as the norm. Texting during meetings, using Facebook during class, being in the company of others but diverting your attention to that little small screen is all considered ok.
Why does this matter?
Sherry says that we are “getting used to a new way of being alone together” We can be surrounded by people physically, but mentally our attention is diverted to our phones and we are alone. It just seems that we are headed to a future where the fail-proof way to get someone’s complete attention is not to be in their physical space, but to contact with them over the internet or their mobile device, even if you are standing right next to them.
Sherry has asked people what’s wrong with having conversations, and I think a pretty poignant truth has emerged . “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with having a conversation. It takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say.”
In the online world we get to edit our image. We present ourselves the way we want others to see us. Maybe it’s an exaggerated reality, but it’s the version of our lives we want people to see. The problem is we run the risk of losing sight of who we actually are. We end up tricking ourselves into thinking that the real us, the off-line us, is not good enough.
I don’t think that the internet and technology is a bad thing, heck I’m a blogger I love the internet. The internet has also introduced me to some great people who I would not have otherwise met. I think it’s all about balance and using technology as a leverage to maintain real world connections.
I highly recommend watching Sherry’s Ted talk if you haven’t done so yet. I honestly think it should be compulsory viewing!
I would really love to know what you think about this? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below!