Alone Together

January 18, 2011

Technology has had and is having a major impact on our lives, often in ways we did not imagine. The amount of information available to people now is staggering and the ability to connect with people from your past that are now scattered across the globe is a blessing.

However, all technology (as it always has been) is a two-edged sword.  With all the wonderful advances, there is often a price, especially if we are unaware of what it is doing to us.

Sherry Turkle a professor at MIT, in her book Alone Together has been studying the impact of technology, especially computers, upon our lives for the past 30 years.  She is a user and beneficiary of the advances in technology, but is also sounding some warnings about how we are allowing it to shape us.  I am only part way through the book, but following are some quotes from the early part of the book that are worth pondering in my opinion.

“Technology proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies.”

“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities.” (this issue is a key concern of Dr. Turkle)

“Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other.”

“ . . . not what computers do for us but what they do to us, to our ways of thinking about ourselves, our relationships, our sense of being human.”

“We romance the robot and become inseparable from our smartphones. As this happens, we remake ourselves  and our relationships with each other through our new intimacy with machines.”

“People are lonely.  The network is seductive. But if we are always on, we may deny ourselves the rewards of solitude.”

“Technology ties us up as it promises to free us up. Connectivity technologies once promised to give us more time. But as the cell phone and smartphone eroded the boundaries between work and leisure, all the time in the world was not enough. Even when we are not ‘at work’, we experience ourselves as ‘on call’; pressed, we want to edit out complexity and ‘cut to the chase.’”

“Overwhelmed by the volume and velocity of our lives, we turn to technology to help us find time. But technology makes us busier than ever and ever more in search of retreat.”

“We make our technologies, and they, in turn shape us. So, of every technology we must ask, Does it serve our human purposes? – a question that causes us to reconsider what those purposes are.”

This morning, a friend sent me this quote as we were discussing (via e-mail) this very subject:

“All kinds of things rejoiced my soul in the company of my friends — to talk and laugh and to do each other kindnesses; read pleasant books together, pass from lightest jesting to talk of the deepest things and back again; differ without rancour, as a man might differ with himself, and when most rarely dissension arose, find our normal agreement all the sweeter for it; teach each other or learn from each other; be impatient for the return of the absent, and welcome them with joy and their homecoming; these and such like things, proceeding from our hearts as we gave affection and received it back, and shown by face, by voice, by the eyes, and a thousand other pleasing ways, kindled a flame which infused our very souls and of many made us one. This is what men value in friends.” – St. Augustine (354-430) Algerian Bishop of Hippo

What are your thoughts on the impact that this “hyper-connectivity” is having on our souls?

Blessings,

BG