Are We Connected But Alone?
That is the question which Sherry Turkle is asking in the video above. Turkle studies technology and it’s impact on our lives. 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. Her first book ‘The Second Self: Computers and The Human Spirit’ was published in 1984, and things have been developing rapidly ever since then.
The TED talk here discussed social media and sociable robots. It is a fascinating way to look at the way that we interact with the online world. Turkle suggests that we live ‘plugged in lives’ – to the extent that we may not be realising that our smart devices are having a psychological impact on us and even changing who we are.
Behaviours that may have seemed odd to us not so long ago are now part of our everyday lives, accepted as the norm. Turkle gives examples such as texting and emailing during board conferences, lectures and presentations. Parents interacting separately with their phones during a family meal – making no eye contact with one another or their children, while making filler sounds ‘mmm’, ‘uh-huh’ instead of conversing together.
Children are paying the price of not receiving their parents full attention, and are modelling this behaviour themselves. How will they learn to have a real face to face conversation? It is typical to see a group of teenagers together – but not together. Each sitting looking at their smart devices.
We even use smart devices to escape feeling the moment that we are in – such as at funerals. In a way we have control over what we are connected to, and can mentally disconnect from situations that make us feel uncomfortable, even when we are physically present.
This control extends further still. We want to connect with one another, but from a distance. Where we can control exactly how much interaction we have, and the intensity. Turkle describes this as ‘The Goldilocks Effect’. Not too much, not too little, just right.
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