Our mobile devices provide so much stimulation that they capture our entire attention, even when we're with other people in social situations. Smartphones isolate us; ironically, they rob us of true solitude.
By now the debate is a familiar one, though we seem no closer to an answer. Are our smartphones making us antisocial? Are those who answer, "Yes," just curmudgeons about technology? Professor of social science and technology at MIT, Sherry Turkle, says never before has a device removed us from our immediate surroundings so completely. "We've never had a device where you could be taking a walk in the woods and you didn't need to be taking a walk in the woods," she says. At stake is nothing less than our conversations with friends and loved ones — a primary medium of socialization — and our own solitude wherein we learn and define who we are as individuals.
The Paradox of Choice: The more choices a person has, the less satisfied the person is with any of the choices. Technology, despite its best intentions, exacerbates this paradox. It also succeeds in disconnecting us while it seeks to connect us.
The Paradox of Choice: The more choices a person has, the less satisfied the person is with any of the choices. Technology, despite its best intentions, exacerbates this paradox. It also succeeds in disconnecting us while it seeks to connect us. We're facing a situation in which the desire to present one's best self overtakes the importance of live, in-person contact, which then leads to weaker relationships as a whole.
Sherry 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. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and is a licensed clinical psychologist.
Professor Turkle is the author of Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution (Basic Books, 1978; MIT Press paper, 1981; second revised edition, Guilford Press, 1992); The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (Simon and Schuster, 1984; Touchstone paper, 1985; second revised edition, MIT Press, 2005); Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet(Simon and Schuster, 1995; Touchstone paper, 1997); and Simulation and Its Discontents (MIT Press, 2009). She is the editor of three books about things and thinking, all published by the MIT Press: Evocative Objects: Things We Think With (2007); Falling for Science: Objects in Mind (2008); and The Inner History of Devices (2008). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other was published by Basic Books in January 2011.
Professor Turkle's newest book is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penguin Press, October 2015).