There is an eternal truth that it is important that we learn as human beings: it is not good for man to be alone.
In her latest TED talk, “Connected but Alone?” Dr. Sherry Turkle challenges, perhaps inadvertently, the modern concept of “alone.” Alone seems to have taken on a new meaning, namely, “without my cell phone.”
Phones and other technology that connects us to our various networks and entertainment can become a good thing, but Dr. Turkle explains in clear, sensible terms why excessive electronic communication, or communication through text, is damaging to our collective psyche when done in excess or as a substitute for real human interaction.
I agree with every point she makes in this particular TED talk. It is tragic to me when I see friends and classmates who don’t know how to talk, who don’t know how to converse, who close themselves off and clam up because they have no concrete concept of how to converse outside of an SMS. We’re often scared of actual phone calls because, “What if I misspeak?” “What if my voice does something strange?” “How do I use my tone and inflection to communicate effectively?” and “How do I start and end the conversation?” It is more work to talk, because it is worth more to our human development than text.
It is a terrifying thing when one realizes that their excessive use of technology, which they intended to use to connect themselves to others, has in fact isolated them and made them mentally weak and shallow, unable to connect even with their own selves. Perhaps the rise of technology, with its constant distraction from any serious introspection, is why so many young people today cannot define their own personality or character. They don’t know what kind of person they are because they haven’t even spoken to that person.
Turkle correctly calls human interaction with its emotion, body language, and further possibilities of expression and intimacy “rich, and messy.” It would be far less messy, I think, if we got some practice at it.
How can we make our communication more real? How can we use technology to improve, rather than escape from, our real life and our real interpersonal interactions?