It’s Time to Talk.
Sherry Turkle’s “Connected, but Alone?” explains how technology is impacting our lives in a profound way. Look around, and what do you see? Several, or most, of the surrounding individuals are staring at their devices waiting for the next text to come in or posting their feelings to Facebook. This is disturbing on a variety of levels. People are no longer having real, face-to-face conversations. The most intimate and important events are being interrupted by calls and notifications. People are also having issues with relationships and personal identity. Right now is the perfect time to realize that technology is harming communications skills, and it’s time to talk — in real life.
People desire strong companionship but tend to “confuse postings and online sharing with authentic communication.” When people in real life let you down or are not there to talk when it’s needed, machines seem to listen and even care about what users have to say. Turkle describes this illusion of companionship as one of the biggest problems of our society. People have quit having real conversations and interactions now and simply turn to their devices. Alter details a man having an online relationship via Second Life. In this article, it is noted that nearly half of all people believe that their online friends are essentially equal or even better than their real life friends. This is startling. Devices and social media have gotten so important to individuals that it’s starting to ruin relationships altogether. Electronic displays of insensitivity are making even the most respectful people seem rude and obnoxious when their phones starting ringing or buzzing in the middle of meetings or when replies must be made during dinner. Nearly two thirds of people admit to not knowing how to address this kind of situation, which gives their silent approval of insensitive and bad behavior concerning technology.
Turkle also touches on the desire for control whether it be what we are saying or the perception we want others to have. These online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Second Life allow us to present our ideal self with attributes of our real self. Users are able to stop and think about what they say or type before it is posted or acted upon. People want this type of control on a variety of levels. Alter’s piece once again verifies the type of control people are looking for when it comes to others’ perceptions. In the virtual world, Mr. Hoogestraat is a successful entrepreneur owning a mall and several clubs. Though he spends most of his time clicking away at the computer, other users see him as this successful entrepreneur.
Real life is messy. People lie and say things they don’t mean, but with technology and the ability to continually edit, we now have the ability and desire to display ourselves as if we are put together and managing life perfectly. If users have a change in mind about how they want to be viewed or take down a private or offensive post, this control of platform enables them to do so. Shirky notes, The expansion of social media means that the only working system is publish-then-filter. This kind of control counteracts what is truly happening in real life.
Turkle believes face-to-face interactions are crucial for development, especially in children. People need to learn how to be alone and develop a capacity for solitude or they will always be lonely and turn to digital communication, which doesn’t teach children much at all.
“Face-to-face interaction teaches skills of negotiation, of reading each other’s emotion, of having to face the complexity of confrontation, dealing with complex emotion…people who feel they are too busy to have conversations in person are not making the important emotional connections they otherwise would.”
When interviewed, most children and young adults believed the main issue of face-to-face interaction is the lack of control involved. People don’t know how long a real conversation could take (or need to take) or what it could lead to. There is also less time to think and control what is said. This control that people desire is hindering them in many ways. Although Turkle believes that uses of technologies and onine identities can be useful in many ways, the majority of communication is turning into simple connection without the real companionship that people need and truly desire.