Culture TED Conversations

Connected but alone? Highlights from our Live Conversation with Sherry Turkle

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Yesterday, TED2012 speaker Sherry Turkle held a 1-hour Live Conversation around her new TEDTalk “Connected but alone?” She asked the community this question: “How has digital technology changed the kind of communications you have with your friends, family and coworkers?”

Here are some highlights of the back-and-forth:

Vanessa Borg : “Changes in digital technology has not only helped us but it has hindered us at the same time. Whereas up to until a couple of years ago you could enjoy a dinner with a person knowing that you have their complete attention, nowadays you know that as soon as their bag/ pocket/ jacket starts to vibrate they have a need to check what has happened. Ultimately I believe that what we are trying to achieve is social acceptance from our own social circle. Nowadays this acceptance is measured either by how many people like your status or by how many people share your image.”

Sherry Turkle: Dear Vanessa . . . I think you point to a really important point! The metric of who one is cannot be measured by how many Facebook friends who have or how many people like your status or follow you on Twitter. Yet now we have these metrics and they can be oppressive. This is such an important point!”

Clayton Papillon:  Sherry, this conversation has answered a few questions I had after I watched your talk. However, you mentioned in your talk to take more time for yourself and have more face-to-face conversations/interactions. For the most part technology has allowed us to take more time for ourselves because you can respond to a question/text/email instantly. If we were to always engage face-to-face (like we used too) we would lose a lot of valuble time to complete other tasks and have more face-to-face conversations with those we adore. Also, your talk seemed to pin technology and communication in a negative light while ignoring the brilliance of it. As we have realized in the last few years more people in this world actually have a voice now because of the way technology allows us to communicate. Information through social media has the power to change the world. Through this realization I find that sometimes I have more in common with a person in South America then I do with my own neighbour, among other things.  Historically speaking, communication has limited the way civilizations interact, do business, and develop. Not to mention it has only served those who can communicate or are listened too. We are now living in a world interconnected by social media and although there might be small negative impacts, it surely brings a large positive light to our global civilization.Thank you for your conversation! :) ”

Sherry Turkle: Clayton, I think you misunderstand me. I am very positive. But I think when we ignore what hasn’t gone right, we do so at our peril. That is my position. So, I honor what has gone brilliantly! But some things are not going so well. And I don’t want us to lose sight of them. I don’t want it to be an either/or thing.”

Samuel Cook : ” I also find that while digital communication helps us hide from the audible and physical side of the conversation, it reveals a different kind of confrontation. When people can see your words they can judge spelling and ability to express yourself legibly. This has a few impacts. I tend to judge people’s intelligence on how well they can spell now, and while it might be inspiring to converse with somebody who can speak with beautiful flow, that doesn’t always convert in text. It also has brought to the surface a huge problem with spelling that may not have been addressed on such a large scale in the past, but unfortunately when weaknesses are unearthed they are often justified and glamorized to hide them in plain sight. We are allowing these problems to grow on a large scale in the upcoming generation.”