Connected but Alone?

Last week discussed how we can use our cognitive surplus to make the world (and the web) a better place. The more we connect and share, and the greater the diversity of those who do, the more ‘the machine’ becomes representative of humanity – no longer a mere tool, but an extension of ourselves. But do we lose something in the process?

Sherry Turkle: is a psychologist and sociologist known as “the Margaret Mead of digital culture. She is a professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Since the publication of her path-breaking book, The Second Self: Computers and The Human Spirit in 1984, Turkle has been studying how technology changes not only what we do, but who we are. Today she has turned her attention to the world of social media and sociable robots. As she puts it, these are technologies that propose themselves “as the architect of our intimacies.”

What technology makes easy is not always what nurtures the human spirit. – Sherry Turkle

Thoughts & Questions for Discussion
• As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?
• What’s so terribly wrong with never being alone?
• Has ubiquitous technology done younger generations a disservice?
• Doesn’t the good in digital technology outweigh the side-effects?
• Will we eventually turn to robots for companionship as Turkle suggests?
• Are we already there?
• Does anything about the family interactions with JIBO disturb you?
• Do you agree that there’s still “time for us to reconsider how we use it, how we build it”?

I’m not suggesting that we turn away from our devices, just that we develop a more self-aware relationship with them, with each other and with ourselves. – Sherry Turkle

9 Comments on “Connected but Alone?

  1. ILR MAY BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH! As I drove out of the FCC parking lot, intending to turn left onto Opossum town Road, but still engrossed in today’s topic and a similar one on KoJo’s NPR program, I accidentally found I was in the wrong lane, and four cars were aimed directly at me! Fortunately, a young, kind woman signaled for me to pull over and get in front of her, so as not to be killed!

    Anyway,the NPR program was discussing differences between online and face-to-face communication! One of the dangers was that young people with incessant “Likes” received on facebook, etc. was possible narcissism. To bolster this view, one speaker cited a study in which juniors in high school were asked forty years ago if they felt they were important people. Only 12 per cent said, “Yes.” Last year, juniors in high school were asked the same question, and 80 percent said “Yes.” Food for thought. any reactions? Gaynell

    • Gaynell, isn’t it a GOOD thing that more young people feel important to others? While I haven’t checked out the NPR program you mentioned yet, I do feel that perhaps the term narcissism is being used too loosely here.

      Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized not only by an inflated sense of importance, but also a lack of empathy for others and fragile self-esteem. I would be very interested to know where the students from forty years ago and today were in these additional characteristics.

      PS – Yes, being lost in deep thought is wonderful, but hazardous to driving. We should petition ILR and NPR to stop being so fascinating and thought provoking 😉!

      • Actually, I first heard this statement about the responses of high school students forty years ago and last year from the esteemed David Brooke who was discussing his new book which I want to read called, Path to Character. He feels we’re all much too narcissistic, and we’d have to read his book to get his definition.
        By the way, thank you for cleaning up my posts. I couldn’t find the edit button anywhere. How did you do that?

        • I will definitely take a look at his book! Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately, wordpress only allows the admin to edit comments. If you or anyone else would like me to edit something, please don’t hesitate to email me.

  2. Livability Index: Aging in Place.

    The AARP Livability Index uses such factors as “safety, security, ease of getting around, access to health care, housing affordability and the prevalence of WiFi [what do you know!!]. . . that promote successful aging.”

    According to the article, you can put in your Zip codes/street address at the AARP Web site, and you will get a livability score so you can see how your locale stacks up with others.

    The Milken Institute index that looks at cities across America lists Madison, Wisconsin as the #1 overall .

    Any reactions?

    Cheers. Gaynell

    • I would have expected some of the more popular retirement cities to rate higher – looks like they have some work to do! I am not at all surprised that the availability of WiFi is counted as a factor, because it has been proven again and again and again that the additional connection it enables with others improves well-being in older adults.

      This is precisely the reason I am adamant that we need a) simper, more intuitive technology devices, and b) more accessible programs that teach us to use the technologies available to us.

      I look forward to the day when the Apple Watch is even easier to use, doesn’t even require you to have a phone, and has a step by step video tutorial for every feature that will enhance lives, enable deeper connections, and improve health.

  3. I’ll be off next week, to help my wife give her sister a break, in taking care of her mother. I’ll check in here, to participate afterwards.

    Now that I am comfortable alone, it can be more challenging to be with people, that are not comfortable being alone or quiet. I know I learn more with this challenge, but I sure value being with those at peace.

    In my 40s I would have preferred a Zen method of a room along, to recover from PTSD. I would have recovered in a half to a third of the time, IF I was left alone. But, I would have missed learning how family, friends, doctors, hospitals, and the world [with good intentions] mistreat me. I recovered from my trauma in spite of the challenges. From my experiences, I have learned empathy for others recovering, and how we could be doing better. What most people do not understand is that unresolved trauma is a source of our mental and physical illnesses. You know they do not understand, when they use more trauma, to try to help those trying to recover from trauma.

    • Mike, we will miss having you in class. I intentionally played devil’s advocate in class in order to hear the arguments for more time alone, however I absolutely agree that both alone time, and connection with others, in balanced harmony, are necessary for personal growth as well as healing.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s