This week I watched Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk “Connected, but alone?”. (2012). She expresses concerns that our constant connectedness may have negative consequences for how we relate to each other and to ourselves. Turkle worries that by constantly texting and networking online, we may be losing our capacity for self reflection. She stresses the importance of teaching our children to be alone.
As I considered her words, I began to wonder if the constant connectivity craved by those who sleep with their phones is in some ways like a hovering parent who doesn’t let their child do anything on their own. With the ability to have someone there for you 24/7, and perpetual access to information and support, will our children become forever dependent, relying on input, assistance and connectedness to others in all aspects of their lives? Even though technology supports our ability to be independent, could it also be inhibiting the development of skills in self-reliance and self-reflection?
Brown (2011) refers to how people are using technology to connect to like-minded individuals as ‘digital tribalism’. (p. 34). This term, along with the concept of digital natives, led me to reflect on native tribes of the past and how they worked together as communities, constantly connected with each other, relying on the tribe for survival. While the constant connections we are afforded through technology are admittedly quite different from these native communities, perhaps a reliance on connections will serve future generations well, just as it did in the past.
The need for solitude is indeed important. As in the rituals of meditation and solitude found in so many cultures, I believe we must make affordances for self-reflection within our digital society. But the building of connections, both online and off, must also be cultivated, for it is only through our connections with others that we find truly find ourselves.
Brown, A. (2011). Relationships, community, and identity in the new virtual society. The Futurist, 45(2), 29-34.
Turkle,S.(2011). Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html