Here is some brain food for a Monday morning. Last week, I heard a talk by Mark Brosnan, a psychology lecturer at Bath university. Mark covered a lot of ground including the concept of being alone together.
After some further investigation I found this video of Sherry Turkle talking through what it means.
Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and the founder and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.
Brosnan likened the idea of being alone together to a family sitting together and being on their computers (phones, tablets etc). They are together but quite alone in that they are not interacting with each other but with people online.
How this type of behaviour will affect our relationships – both between fellow humans and humans and technology – is the stuff of Turkle’s work (and Brosnan’s).
In the video she makes many provocative statements, some of which I have included here:
- Connectivity offers for many of us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
- Online connections bring so many bounties but our lives of continual connection also leave us vulnerable.
- Are we too busy communicating to think and create? Are we too busy communicating to connect with others in the ways that will truly count?
- We are comforted being in touch with a lot of people who we also keep at bay.
- If we don’t teach our children to be alone they will only know how to be lonely.
I’m fascinated by the impact of my behaviour with my mobile when I am around my children – I can be with them and also with others online almost at the same time. Is that good or bad (I think it is bad for my children if I am doing it while they want my involvement)? Is it different to talking to a friend face to face rather than being in an online conversation?
You may or may not agree with Turkle’s ideas but they are important and worth considering.
I tend to be more glass half full on some of this as I have built great connections with many people through social media. A key part of this is being able to come together face to face.
Last week reminded me of what you can achieve through networks and I am looking forward to meeting my co-collaborators this Wednesday at an event (the ConnectingHR unconference) which has only been made possible through social networks.
Only time will tell how all this impacts on my children.