On an episode of This American Life from Nov. 2015, Ira Glass and his guests- two teenage girls- discuss how social media has a “weird psychology” to it, and I think that point is illustrated quite well by Sherry Turkle’s fascinating TED Talk from 2012.
During her talk, she discusses the idea of a constant connection being a symptom of a bigger problem and a way for people to cope with that problem. Technology helps us define ourselves to live in the moment (Turkle, 2012).
In many ways, she’s right: ubiquitous tech leads to the need for Instant gratification. Instant gratification becomes the norm. We think we’re connecting and being more open and relatable, when in reality we’re isolating ourselves by retreating into our own devices.
With technological innovation over the years, communication and connection have certainly become much easier and more convenient. Connection with others is important, but are interpersonal relationships affected by social media and the portability and convenience of mobile devices? The sad, basic truth of the matter is that we expect more from technology than we do from each other (Turkle 2012).
Turkle goes on to share the idea that the “feeling of nobody listening to us” drives us toward “automatic listeners” in social media, and I believe she could not be more correct.
Turkle said something that resonated with me, “Those little devices don’t only change what we do; they change who we are.”
She talks about how people are texting and doing e-mail during meetings, classes, and other social events, including funerals. I have noticed these disturbing trends myself.
Relating to people is the crux of the issue here. How can we relate to each other, when we want to be everywhere else.
People want to customize their lives (Turkle 2012). Turkle talks about a businessman who feels like he doesn’t have anyone to talk to at work, because they’re all on their various devices and he doesn’t want to interrupt them; what about the boy she talks about who doesn’t know how to have a conversation? I find the very notion unnerving. I look around me and I see people retreating into their devices and ignoring the world.
The most terrifying concept Turkle brings up is that we believe we are not alone by connecting as much as we do, but at the end of the day, this constant connection is making us more alone (Turkle, 2012).
Have we truly become this disconnected from reality only to be connected via social media? I can identify with the aforementioned businessman. I feel we are alone in a sea of disconnected connections.
Turkle’s ideas are intriguing and led me to explore the issue a bit further. The idea that our technology makes us more lonely is a terrifying thought.
One study, performed by UCLA, shows a direct aspect of how addictive social media can be. According to the study, teenagers are attaining the same effect from seeing the number of likes on their Facebook, Twitter, or other social media pages as they do from eating chocolate and winning money (Wolpert, 2016). As I read through the article, I realized that some of this correlates with what Turkle was saying during her TED talk, about the digital world changing the way people relate to the real world.
However, nothing illustrates what Turkle was talking about more than the simple notion that many studies have recently shown technology is making us lonely.
First off, The Feeling that people get from using social media in their devices must be compelling enough to make things the way they are right now. What do the kids do when they finish their homework, their chores, or their dinner? They returned to their device to listen to music, play games, surfing the net, use social media, etc. (Erupting Mind, 2016)
It’s fascinating to me that zoning out has become the norm. That’s not to say social media is this horrible, demonic force that takes us in and won’t let us go. It has done positive aspects.
For instance, social media has made staying in touch with old friends much easier (Mordecai, 2015). That’s not even mentioning how much it helps businesses connect.
According to the article, “Why Social Media Makes us Lonely,” the benefits of Social Media comes with some major drawbacks. We measure our lives against those of others and use it as a window into being accepted. We craft versions of our ideal self while online (Mordecai, 2015). It only highlights what Turkle has been talking about.
So, it seems like technology truly is changing human society. However, could this simply be a phase? Perhaps we accept it now, but maybe we’ll soon reject the way Silicon Valley thinks we ought to behave (Bolton, 2013).
Who knows? Smart phones are only eight years old, after all, but we should certainly be careful with the way we’re connecting.
I’d like to end on a positive note by saying there’s nothing wrong with loving technology-as long as it’s not the only relationship you’re in (Erupting Mind, 2016). It only takes stepping away from technology for a short time to see the world around you.