Has Technology affected how we communicate on a day to day basis or has it simply made conversation more of a ‘microwave phenomenon’, quick and easy? Are mobile phones, the internet and other communication devices diminishing the essence of true communication?
Described as "the Margaret Mead of digital culture," Professor of Psychology and Sociology Sherry Turkle has been studying how technology changes not only what we do, but who we are. With her new focus now on the world of social media and sociable robots, she argues that the social media we encounter on a daily basis are confronting us with a moment of excitement where we pretend to have companionship without demanding intimacy, sacrificing conversation with sheer connections and confusing postings and online sharing with genuine communication.
In her recent TED talk in April, 2012 (see video below), Sherry observes, “I'm still excited by technology, but I believe, and I'm here to make the case, that we're letting it take us places that we don't want to go.”
Over the years, Sherry has studied technologies of mobile communication and interviewed hundreds of people both young and old, and found that these mobile devices “are so psychologically powerful that they don't only change what we do, they change who we are.” Now, people can do things with their devices which only a few years ago would have been untinkable.
Her concern however is that, we are “getting used to a new way of being alone together” and society is gearing up for trouble, “trouble certainly in how we relate to each other, but also trouble in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self-reflection.” She observes, “across the generations, I see that people can't get enough of each other, ...” a term she called “the Goldilocks effect: not too close, not too far, just right.”
Texting and communication through technology have gradually affected our face to face relationships with each other. Through technology we are always in control of where we put our attention and how we let others perceive us. There’s that ability to edit, retouch and delete what we don’t want others to see, something you cannot do in a face to face conversation. Although keeping us in control, that urge to be listened to can never be quenched through technology. “It is when we stumble or hesitate or lose our words that we reveal ourselves to each other.”
From her perspective, due to this urge we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection because we are scered of being lonely. However, that same loneliness we despise is vital for building long lasting attachments. She argues that only through solitude are we able to find our true selves and form that ability to be able to relate with others without the interference of technology.
Sherry makes an interesting observation that “just because we grew up with the Internet, we tend to see it as all grown up, but it is not: Digital technology is still in its infancy and there is ample time for us to reshape how we build it and use it.”
Source: TED site