Interesting new book from MIT psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle: ‘Alone Together. Why we expect more from technology and less from each other’. Main theses in the book is the following: as technology and social media become more and more present in our lives, we invest less in our real and face-to-face relations. True or false?
The author criticises the fact that we are always connected in our ‘tethered’ society. That we use social media and technology as a sort of escapism and see it as an important source of hope. That we make objects of people and put them in ‘waiting’ modus, whenever we feel like it. Turkle is not against technology, but she points out that it shouldn’t take over some of our rituals and habits, nor should it be present constantly.
She describes some of her experiences with youngsters. How they run to their mobile phones and Facebook or Twitter at every dull moment, even if their friends accompany them. How youngsters prefer texting instead of real life conversations, as these are more difficult and annoying. How kids and teenagers feel abandoned since their parents have more attention for their smartphones.
No doubt that the constant presence of technology in our lives affects how we feel, think and do. That we should, from time to time, ask ourselves how this technology fits in our lives and try to find the good balance between offline and online. However, we should look at technology from both ways, not only what it takes from us, but also what it offers us.
Turkle refers to the strong need of youngsters to share emotions. US youngsters send an average of 3000 text messages a month, mostly emotional ones. In Belgium, we saw last week how, after the tragic accident of a young student Mattias VDS, social media played an important role in the grieving process of family and friends. They helped in bringing people together and sharing emotions in these difficult times. Solidarity and togetherness dominated.
Though we should be aware of social pitfalls of technology, I have no doubt that the pragmatic Generation Y knows how to handle technology and put it at service of real life.