MIT Social Studies professor Sherry Turkle has a point. And she continues to remind us of the predicament we’re in: all too often, we are “alone together”. We think we are with our friends while all we do is stare at a screen. In her own terms: “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.” This is from a recent NYT opinion piece, and it’s also the main argument of Professor Turkle’s book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other”, in which she makes the case that it is vitally important for us to re-connect with friends.
As useful as social media have been to all of us (including the author of this lonely blog post), they often take time away from real opportunities to meet. Or from real meetings. Yes, obviously, it’s great to be able to post stuff on facebook, or find out what people do. The question is really always what you would do otherwise: be miserable and by yourself — or have fun with friends at the pub, indulging in a heated argument while enjoying ice cream. Compared to the former, obviously, social media are a great improvement. Not because time spent alone is bad, but because solitary suffering — as human an experience as it may be — is a state that is best overcome.
There is not much I want to add to this whole argument here (although, as many of you know, I’m working on a little bit of a thing about this issue). There is, however, one innovation I would like to suggest to all of you. Sherry Turkle muses about the possibility of having not just “casual Fridays” at work but also “conversational Thursdays”. Being a sucker for alliteration and regular meter, I love the idea but find the phrase just too clumsy. So here it is: “Talk Tuesday”.
The idea is simple: on Tuesdays, if you find yourself thinking about someone you haven’t been in touch with in a while, and you want to re-connect with friends, don’t write them an e-mail or a text message or a facebook message or whatever else but give them an actual phone call. Listen to their voice, find out what they have to say, and maybe even make a plan to meet up.
Just an idea.
- Photo by aka kirara.