Are Digital Devices Killing Conversation?
Are digital devices ruining our ability to have deep and meaningful conversations, emphasizing desperate and superficial connections instead? How can we sustain healthy relationships?
What's the Latest Development?
MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle says that digital devices are transforming our communication habits for the worse, making the kinds of conversation that humans depend on for social support, and self-reflection, rarer than ever. Not only do we immerse ourselves in our devices but we turn to them, rather than people, when we feel lonely. Turkle says that younger generations have all but lost the capacity to feel self-assured when they are away from their social group, preferring to connect all the time which, says Turkle, means conversing none of the time.
What's the Big Idea?
Alexandra Samuel, professor of social media at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, rebuts Turkle's arguments. Samuel says that looking at the communication tendencies of one generation versus another is to miss the obvious point that new technology affects everyone, not just whippersnappers. Chat windows, blogs and affinity groups are all vehicles for real conservation, not just desperate and superficial connections. "We are making that digital shift together—old and young, geeky and trepidatious—and we are only as alone as we choose to be."
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- How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
- To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
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