“Technology enchants; it makes us forget what we know about life. The new—any old new—becomes confused with progress.”
“When we move from conversation to mere connection, we get a lot of unintended consequences.”
Sherri Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
I know many of us have been worrying and speaking about this for some time. There is of course no easy solution. And constantly pointing to the problem can get tiresome.
But then again, the more keenly aware we are of the problem, the more motivated we will be to do something. There are many aspects of the problem, and there are several possible approaches to addressing it.
At the end of the day, what is most important is that we choose something, and then do it. We make a plan—even a very simple one—and start to follow it. Being aware that we ‘have a problem’ or that ‘something is really wrong,’ but then not taking concrete steps to address it is irrational. It is a sign of the seriousness of our problem.
Turkle says that technology makes us forget what we know about life. Powerful words. A scary reality.
The other day a man was driving with a teenager who is related to him. He observed that almost immediately the teen took out a smart phone and started to text. And text, and text. No conversation took place. It was shocking. And it was commonplace.
Adults of all ages will need to take the lead. The young cannot be accused of forgetting something about life that they haven’t learned. Indeed, if we don’t do something, they’ll never learn it.
The problem is subtle—though at times not so subtle!—and pervasive. It demands that we look again with honesty and humility at our own practices, and then act with courage and self-discipline.
No one is going to change our habits for us. And no one is going to give direction to the young for us.
A NOTE ON IMAGES: When I did a search of images under “grandparents and teens,” in the first page of results were three images I have put here: one as the feature image of the post and the other two below.
The tag lines of the images, respectively, were:
“How to create a lasting bond between teens and grandparents.”
“Happy Grandparent connecting with grandchild.”
I do NOT put these images here to scoff at them. Different efforts at interaction with grandchildren can be applauded. Yet I would raise two questions: How might we better picture the interaction of young and old? and, How might elders draw the young into THEIR WORLD rather than vice versa?
Sherri Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in addition to the book quoted above has authored “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” among other books.