NYTimes op-ed has a piece The Flight from Conversation by Sherry Turkle. Here’s
some of her point:
In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being
in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough
of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we
can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a
Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the
self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can
delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much,
not too little — just right.
Human relationships are rich; they’re
messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with
technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this.
But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that
over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.
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
We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite
is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely.
If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be
I remember after Facebook for a year, it seemed everybody who met and
had a conversation had to add each other on Facebook. It seemed reasonable
if I can assume to see the person regularly that adding eachother on FB
made sense. But I realized I was more concerned with people on FB halfway
across the country, while ignoring my next door neighbor, my classmate, and
everyone else. It was easier to pretend the world in front of me was
irrelevant than the allegedly self-affirming text message from somebody
that never reached the real depths of real affirmation.
The piece also introduces the idea that we flee to social media in order
to escape or cure loneliness. Loneliness is incurable really. In some way,
we are all alone, and we have to learn how to be ourselves alone, without
having the incessant need to hover from one shallow interaction to the
next. I know it sounds cliche, but we need to accept ourselves first.
Obviously, she does not address prayer and meditation, which are
activities that we can cultivate our alone-ness. I believe that some people
are called to be single, and some called to be celibate, to disclose the
fact that we as humans are all born, and all die alone. You won’t whither
into a eccentric geriatric merely by balancing your rich conversational
socializing with deeper richer genuine alone-ness.