This week’s inspiring video is by Sherry Turkle who talks about being connected yet being alone.
Sherry is a psychologist who has spent over fifteen years studying the impact of the Internet on our lives. In this time her approach has changed from very optimistic to more concerned one. Sherry Turkle’s talk is a wakeup call for all of us. She says it’s not too late to change our way of relating with technological gadgets that became ever present in our lives.
We wake up and start the day by browsing Internet on our smart phones and check different apps. We go on to Facebook and Twitter, updating our status. Than we move on and check our emails. We spend our day glued to the smaller or bigger screens of various devices, and we end the day lying in bed holding the glowing in the darkness screen before we close our eyes. This is our reality. The more extreme vision of it was portrayed in a book called ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ by Gary Shteyngart. In Shteyngart’s world people don’t communicate anymore because they prefer to engage with their little pendant like devices, which stream constantly tons of data and images. This way of living was so sad, lonely and meaningless that it shook me to the core. You know what, we’re not far from it and if we keep on going like this, we’ll be there rather sooner than later. Sherry Turkle is already aware of that!
What is so appealing in technology that we became transfixed by it? Sherry answers:
1. Those little devices are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.
2. Technology gives us an illusion of being in control – we chose where we give our attention.
3. It allows us to hide from one another as it provides us with an excuse that we’re busy as we sit and look into the screens – no one will interrupt us.
4. It creates just enough of the distance between people so we are neither too close nor too far from each other.
5. It provides us with time and space to edit and delete what we’re going to say, which helps us to create and maintain the image we want to project into the world.
6. It creates an illusion that someone is listening to us.
7. It gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship – it’s an easier option, less messy, more controllable.
8. It makes us believe we’re never alone – to cover up our growing anxiety and discomfort about being on our own.
9. It creates a compelling concept of ‘I share therefore I am’ – we think: I have to have feeling so I can share it.
We became so wrapped up and smitten by modern technology, we even haven’t noticed that the price we’re paying for using it is huge:
1. We have removed ourselves from our emotions, bodies and essentially our lives.
2. We deny attention to ourselves and others.
3. We are losing an ability to really connect with others as well as our ability of self-reflection.
4. We are less and less able to create and maintain face to face connection and have a conversation.
5. We became to expect more from technology than from each other.
6. We are losing our capacity for solitude and that prevents us from connecting with our own self and with others.
I’ve noticed that humanity has a tendency to get so excited with new inventions, those new shiny toys, that we get carried away and become out of touch with reality and consequences of using those toys. Let me give you an example. In the 50’s cigarettes were very popular and people were so excited about it that nearly everybody smoked at the time. Cigarettes were marketed in a way that when you picked up a cigarette it meant you’re an independent, strong man or an interesting, mysterious woman. The massage bypassed the mind and hit you in a soft spot and before you knew it, you were doing it. It was cool at the time to smoke. Now, over sixty years and tons of scientific studies later, we all know smoking is not good for your health and it’s uncool nowadays to smoke. Not to mention that millions of people also died of smoking-related diseases.
Same principle applies to technology. It is relatively new, so we again went for it without taking a breath and asking is it really beneficial for us? Thing is, we can learn from our earlier mistakes and wake up now, save what we can before it’s too late, like for many smokers.
Sherry Turkle doesn’t say technology is bad so let’s get rid of it. She simply urges us to approach technology in a spirit of self-reflection and to use it to learn more about ourselves. She also encourages us to develop more aware relationship with our devices, other people but most importantly with ourselves. She asks us to spend more time in solitude, connecting with our own self, so we know how we are and are more able to truly connect with others. Sherry also asks us to embrace the richness and messiness of human relations, the good and boring aspects of them. Talking and listening to others in the old fashioned conversation are the most effective way of learning and understanding each other.
Life is an art of staying in balance, so following that thought, we could start using technology to our advantage in more balanced and healthy manner.
Let’s put away all of the devices aside every day and connect in a deeper and more meaningful way and our efforts will be generously rewarded by the richness of the human experience.
As always I look forward to your comments.