We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.Everyone is tweeting and texting and surfing all the time. Offices are too quiet now because young lawyers wear headphones while they work. No one talks anymore.
We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.I don't use Twitter, but I have substantial, meaningful, life-changing conversations over Email. Facebook has helped me rejoin my hometown community. Next Saturday, I'll join hundreds of people at the dedication of the new high school theater to the memory of Mr. Fish - a dedication that would not have happened without Facebook. Those connections are real.
Turkle says "In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another's point of view". Yes - and I when Renee and Tami and Resist Racism and Muzik share their view of the world, mine expands beyond the borders of the small town of my youth and insular valley of my adulthood. Muzik and other adult adoptees have helped me give my daughter what she needs. I've already explained how important the online open-adoption community is to our journey. That connection, too, is real.
In addition to her concern about The End Of Conversation, Turkle also bemoans our disconnection from the world around us.
I spend the summers at a cottage on Cape Cod, and for decades I walked the same dunes that Thoreau once walked. Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices.Yes, it's a problem when people are disconnected from their surroundings or withdrawn from their companions - but there are a lot of "devices" that serve the same purpose. I used to use books in precisely the same way many people now use iPhones - as a way to retreat from the world and avoid encounters with real people. My parents had to forbid reading at the table just as Sam and I have told Eve that we won't tolerate texting during dinner. And those who walk on sand dunes without looking where they're going will find that has its own consequence.
We require human connection and conversation just as we require air and water, but water from my tap will hydrate me just as well as water from a stream. Sometimes technology gets in the way of that connection, but it can also facilitate it. It's up to us to use it in healthy and wise way.