Connected Solitude

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 8.58.19 PMThis 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?

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 8.58.07 PM

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.

 

 

References:

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

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Connected Solitude

  1. You make some very important points in this blog post. One that really resonated with me was child access to a parent 24/7 through the use of technology. There has been a lot of information in the news lately about helicopter parents. A recent article in The Globe and Mail quotes Professor Mary Schiffrin from the College of Mary Washington:

    “She suggests technology, by allowing parents to constantly keep tabs on their children, may be making it harder for many to resist helicopter parenting.”

    Not only do parents find it harder to resist, but I think children do as well. A friend was recently telling me the story of her daughter who is in third-year university, and had gone on a road trip with some friends. She forgot her ipod in a hotel room, and after leaving the town, called the hotel to see if they had it. The hotel told her no. She immediately called her mom. What did her mom do? Telephoned the hotel herself, demanded the ipod, which they miraculously located, and mailed to her daughter, who said to her mom, “Thanks Mom, I couldn’t have done that.”
    If she had not had a cell phone to telephone her mom, she would have had to handle the situation herself.

    You stated, “Even though technology supports our ability to be independent, could it also be inhibiting the development of skills in self-reliance and self-reflection?”

    In a word, yes.

    Leung, W. (2013, February 14). Why helicopter kids aren’t happy. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/why-helicopter-kids-arent-happy/article8679887/

    • Kim Lasher says:

      Thanks for your comments and for the link to the article. For me personally, my son’s use of texting has made it somewhat easier for me to avoid helicopter parenting. Like most parents, I sometimes find it difficult to let go as my son tries to break free of childhood restraints and gain independence as a teenager. Somehow the technology provides me with some sense, perhaps maybe a false sense at times, that we remain connected, making it easier for me to let go. I don’t believe that the technology encourages helicopter parenting, but agree that it will likely be utilized as a tool by parents who already have the tendency to hover and over protect their children.

      Coincidently, just as I sat typing this reply, my husband came across another article on helicopter parenting, this one by by Misty Harris, found in today’s Calgary Herald. Harris cites Jean Twenge, who speaks of two trends that are contributing to helicopter parenting: ‘peer-enting’- the way in which parents act more as ‘friends’ to their children than figures of authority, and a “..hyper-competitive culture in which it is presumed that a child’s success demands constant vigilance and intervention.” Clearly this is a hot topic, as there seems to be substantial debate on the impact of over-connectivity between parents and children!

      Harris, M. (2013, March 2). ‘Planet mom and dad’: helicopter parents hovering. The Calgary Herald, p. C8.

  2. Skye says:

    Kim,
    I enjoyed this post and identify with your concerns regarding the, “ability to have someone there for you 24/7, and perpetual access to information and support…”. You go on to delve deeper with the question, “will our children become forever dependent, relying on input, assistance and connectedness to others in all aspects of their lives?”
    Have you or anyone else noticed a change or difference in the neediness of your students over the past several years? Have you observed more parental involvement in student academic/social performance that would lead to a less independent student?

    I’ll be honest, I’m surprised to find myself agreeing with Pollet, Roberts, & Dunbar (2011, p.253) when they explain that “there are effects of personality type of the impact of Internet use on social life”. We are all dependent to some degree or another on our parents or guardians growing up and our personality plays a huge role in this. One youth may feel the need to text their parent constantly to feel a sense of stability while his/her best friend doesn’t even have a cell phone yet. And the debate on whether the dependency is weakening the youth’s ability to function as an independent student is contradicted by the argument that it allows the youth enough stability to function as normally as possible within external social society.

    One could argue that a child who phoned their parent to help them solve a problem was actually being resourceful, ,tapping in to the strengths of those they depend on. Children who grow up constantly connected and dependent may actually have a stronger support network both in social and professional worlds (Sacks, M.A., Graves, N., 2012, p. 84). I wonder how the child would view the action of calling her parent. It would in my view, make a difference if the child became an adult and was still calling their parent to solve issues and yet, even in that I think we all depend on our mentors and support-networks to help us problem-solve.

    It isn’t that we can’t function without the guidance and support of our parents, we choose to involve them because difference perspectives create new understanding and knowledge. Are we ever really alone? Even before technology was invented we depended on our local communities. In fact, don’t newly weds move in with their parents in many cultures? Or move into homes on the same street as their parents? Or live on the same street, in the same community for their entire lives? Couldn’t that also be considered dependent?

    References:

    Pollet, T. V., Roberts, S. G. B., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2011). Use of social network sites and instant messaging does not lead to increased offline social network size, or to emotionally closer relationships with offline network members. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14(4), 253-258. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0161

    Sacks, M., & Graves, N. (2012). How many “Friends” do you need? Teaching students how to network using social media. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(1), 80-88. doi:10.1177/1080569911433326

  3. kamal punit says:

    Interesting post Kim!
    I really like the way you have stressed on the dependence and independence of technology in the lives of our children. Every tool that attempts to enhance our lives makes us more dependent on it. Same is with technology and thus it is delved upon that balance in its usage is the answer. But how do we strike that balance? I personally always keep my phone nearby even when I sleep. I feel so dependent on my laptop and cell phone for everything personally and professionally. Brown (2011, p. 31) refers to the phenomenon “micro-coordination”. Our lives have already been irrevocably altered and I view us all living our current lives under this phenomenon. The future may be a bit scary. A simple text from a friend in need has the capacity to change a family’s get away plan. Now this hopefully would be good for the friend along with a life learning lesson for the children in the family. Did the ‘ use’ or ‘interference’ of the technology strengthen family ties in this case? You point out, “The need for solitude is indeed important.” Does technology take us towards that solitude? Do individuals crave for a day when they could completely shut down all devices and spend some time ‘alone’? I think technology is changing the meaning of relationship with our own selves. I do agree with Sherry Turkle (2011, TedTalk) and believe that time for self reflection is more important than it has ever been in the past.
    References:
    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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s