In Sherry Turkle’s 2012 TED talk, she discusses the idea that the more we expect out of technology, the less we expect from each other. As I watched and listened to her arguments about the amount of time we spend on our phones and social media, I felt myself getting defensive and thinking of all the ways I fight against being another statistic. I love calling people while I’m driving (hands free of course) just to chat and catch up, I make a conscious effort to keep my phone in my purse during meals with others, and I don’t allow myself to look at social media right as soon as I wake.
But here I am, traveling for work in a a city I’ve never been, and instead of taking a walk around town to explore for myself, I’m laying in bed wasting 30 minutes researching the best food spots which then of course leads to another 30 minutes of watching Instagram stories of my friends back at home.
And now all of the examples of how I prefer technology and social media over face to face interaction becomes apparent. Like when I’m sitting at my desk and my phone rings, my the first thought is always, ” Why are you calling me? Just send an email.” Being caught off guard with a work phone call is scary. What if I don’t have the correct answers right now? What if I over promise something or don’t properly negotiate? I’d much rather read their thoughts in an email and then craft the perfect response. Turkle expands on this and says that technology allows us to present ourselves in a way that we want to be presented. We can edit, delete, and retouch. We can take our time and feel like we have control over the way we are perceived.
There is more to the problem than technology itself but digital communication has no moral compass. We need to consciously direct it, control it, and monitor it or else it will enable the darker sides of human nature. It is a communication vehicle that doesn’t have the smart safety features of a new car; Warning us that we’re veering into another lane or not paying enough attention. It’s up to us to take control.
It’s up to us to stop reaching for a device every time we get a bit lonely. Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely but the more we crave for constant connection, the more we blur the line between the two words. We learn more about ourselves in solitude, which then allows us the ability to learn about others. It’s a muscle we have to flex and keep strong to continue its use. Unfortunately, technology makes it easy to prevent that.