Earlier this semester we watched Sherry Turkle’s TED talk in class addressing the relationship between humans and computers, and how those relationships have impacted our interactions with one another. The chapters I read in her latest book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other simply provided more substantial evidence of the points she made in her TED talk: that technology is taking the place of human-human interaction and that moving towards total loss of those interactions could be detrimental.
There are many things the Internet does well. It makes us more efficient and able to connect with people quickly on a global level. Turkle makes an interesting argument, however, when she says that social media is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. There is no doubt that computers were, at least in part, designed to fill some void that many people all over the world feel—feelings of disconnect and loneliness. But while computers, technology, and social media satiate this hunger on a very superficial level, Turkle argues that these relationships are not as sincere as those formed in person and therefore leave us feeling lacking.
To me part of the satisfaction of an in-person relationship is working at it continuously. It means more to a friendship to know that they take time out of their day to meet you at a coffee shop when you brake-up with your boyfriend, or to buy a plain ticket to fly across the country to see your new born baby. Its not the same if someone texts you to say I’m sorry or even video chats you to see the new baby. A friend’s investment of time shows their dedication to the relationship. While online connections are better than nothing, they are only superficial placeholders of the real thing, yet in many cases they have come to replace that real thing entirely. We are more connected than ever, yet we are more alone than ever: we are alone together.
Review of Alone Together by the New York Times
TED talk by Sherry Turkle