Sherry Turkle Says Technology Is Making Us Lonelier Because We Spend Less Time Alone, Or Something

from the say-what-now? dept

A decade ago psychologist Sherry Turkle was at the forefront of encouraging children to go online so they could better learn to communicate with others. Yet, somewhere over the past decade, she's shifted almost entirely, and joined the "get off my lawn" generation. Her latest is a screed in the NY Times about how all of this social networking makes us all lonely because kids can no longer talk to humans face to face any more. At least that's what I think she's saying. Perhaps it would make more sense if she explained it face to face, because the arguments in the article don't fully make sense. It talks about how the kids these days in the workplace put on headphones and work instead of talking to each other. Some might call that being focused on work rather than chit chat. And, chances are many of them are still talking to each other via instant messaging, which is often more efficient anyway.

Of course, to Turkle, that kind of communicating doesn't count. It's not clear why -- other than it's "different." And therefore it's bad. The argument isn't particularly convincing... and it gets worse at the end. It turns out that actually communicating with people makes us more lonely. We'd apparently all be less lonely if we spent more time alone:
So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.
Got it? Apparently, communicating with others makes you lonely. Being actually alone makes you less lonely. Why? Because Sherry Turkle says so. Not sure that's particularly convincing.

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  1. identicon
    Michael, 24 Apr 2012 @ 8:06am

    I understand her argument. She isn't saying that internet communication is inherently a bad thing. Rather, she's (trying to) explain how some people seek to interact with people on social networks and whatnot in order to feel included, yet still wind up feeling lonely due to the lack of human factor which technology cannot emulate. Technology is fine for distributing information and relaying messages back and forth but is in no way a substitute for real-life human interaction.

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