I found Sherry Turkle’s opinions in the TED presentation, Connected, but Alone, to be very informative and thought-provoking.
I agree with what she had to say about people’s growing dependence on technology and withdrawal from real communication. I think people today are more comfortable with expressing their thoughts and feelings on social media or by text because they have a chance to think about what they are going to say. They don’t have to worry about someone finding out the complete truth by observing their body language and hearing their tone of voice. It also takes away the feelings of guilt if one person has to deliver bad news.
Person-to-person, face-to-face contact makes us feel vulnerable, which is a feeling that nobody enjoys. Vulnerability makes us feel weak and as though we have no control over things in our lives. Expressing how we feel via technology helps us to eliminate that sense of vulnerability. We control how in depth we are going to get regarding our thoughts and feelings; we control how we say what we need to say and do not have to let anyone see our faces as we say it. A sad conversation can take place without the other person seeing our tears.
I fear that we are eventually going to have a society where nobody can maintain a face-to-face conversation for longer than 30 seconds. I have been in many a situation where two or more people are sitting together, having a meal, and instead of speaking aloud, they are texting one another. I miss the times when families gathered around the table for a meal and talked about their days. I know that probably makes me sound very old-fashioned, but it’s true. I do not quite understand why people go to live sporting events just to spend the majority of their time on their Smartphones. I understand the desire to use your phone as a camera (I am guilty of doing that myself) but to constantly be sitting there texting does not make sense to me.
Computers and the Internet have changed the way people meet and fall in love. Online dating has become a more common way to find a partner. It is slowly losing its stigma. Sure, you have to weed out the “one-night stand” profiles from the “I want a commitment” ones, but you have to do that with offline dating too. I met a wonderful man online nearly five years ago and we are very much in love. I have a few friends who have met their spouses online and they have been married for over 10 years now.
Someone told me recently that a fair amount of people under the age of 25 think it is acceptable to send and reply to text messages during sex. I heard something on the radio the other day about break ups. Apparently, the most commonly preferred way to end a relationship is by text message. I think that’s a cowardly way to end a relationship, but I can understand why some people do it: it’s quick, easy, and you don’t have to look the other person in the eye when you break their heart. You can also take your time and really think about what you want to say.
Text messages do have their advantages, though. You can receive news and weather alerts in an emergency. I personally love waking up in the morning to find a “Have a good day, I love you” text message from my boyfriend. A text message before a doctor’s appointment or an “I am thinking about you” can be a welcome break in the day. My pet peeve is when I am out with someone and they are constantly checking their text messages. Sometimes I just want to scream, “Are you spending time with me or the person on your phone?”
I am not anti-technology. I have a laptop, a digital camera, an iPod, and a Smartphone. I just think we need to find a balance between using digital communication and face-to-face communication.
We need to go back to the time where people sat around the kitchen table for dinner and talked about their days. We need to learn to put the devices away for half an hour or so and just talk, to reconnect on a one-to-one basis, to re-establish a sense of intimacy and togetherness. We need to learn to not be so alone in a room full of people.