The following post is a response to Krista Tippettis show On Being where she interviewed Sherry Turkle who just wrote the book Alone Together. Sherry Turkle is in a prominent position at MIT in their study of technology in relationship to our beingness as humans, and her new book reflects that.
I think that this is such an important topic. Firstly, there is no commitment to a person when you text or email that person. People come and go and it becomes like a maze of people interacting. Furthermore, it is so easy to misconstrue a dashed message or email. One does not need to find the intention, nuance or further context of what a person is saying. Also, when having a conversation, it has been determined that somewhere around 30 or 50 percent (forgot which) is people’s facial and body language, which a smile sign in an email does not take the place of, does it? Then there is tone of voice and the flow of someone’s voice, which is another 30 percent or so. None of this gets revealed in a tweet or an email. People misconstrue so much just because of one’s personal semantics or someone’s accent or how they look, etc., and now we don’t even to get to hear someone’s voice or really get to know them. So much in language is not even discussed. How do we explain the difference in how we use the word ‘sweet’. It is only tone and can have the literal meaning, but it can mean the prolonged sweet–sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet, which as a different meaning or it can be said sarcastically as in ‘that’s sweet’. It is hard to even explain this even by the best of writer’s many who fail when it comes to dialogue. Move your hands one way in one generation and the same way in another generation, does it mean the same? Can we really text this or bring it into an email? How many people are really able to get past the clutter of their own mind to sense the energy of what is being conveyed? It is hard enough to do in person. Even there, there are so many responses that go right past us. Are we learning to evaluate by what we agree with or and walking away from differences. If it is the latter, what can we expect as the consequence? Just think, and I know this has been said many times before, in the whole universe there is only one you! But, that is true for everyone. If that is the case, how do we get past the tower of babble. How do we get past narcissistically wanting everyone to agree with us or prove us right? If that is what we want, don’t be surprised with the shooting rampages here or overseas or when business loses its sense of integrity!
What will happen to our ability to have discourse in our relationships or to create intimacy? The other day I said in an email “Listen Jean,” and I have used this expression often in my job over the telephone with no one having a bad reaction. Further more there was a smile sign at the end of my sentence,and, yet, the person had a reaction to my saying that expression. In my world, I was being friendly. In hers, it was something else. When I attempted to explain to her that this was her reaction, and not my intent (and I have to tell you this is someone who supposedly knows about semantics), she was gone. Conversation over, and what will she then say to someone else on a blog, Facebook or wherever without having finished the conversation. In other words, there was no need to check back and negotiate, mediate or compromise in a way that allows another person in. So there is something happening that, is further isolating us and allowing us to be incomplete with others in a way that will disassociate us from the consequences of our actions.
The founder of Facebook’s statement in relationship to privacy becoming obsolete has so many explicit implications in relationship to the above, but the most stellar is there seems to be a lack of recognition that there is more to a person than these distorted images of people, which are no more in many cases than a paparazzi taking a shot of a movie star. You would think looking at the movie about him, and what happened during the course of the movie, he would have learned his lesson, but not. Justification and denial has set in it seems to me, and that is the exact problem.
When people can be in the present and have a sense of real solitude, there is a sense of real connectedness. Unfortunately, for all this attempt at connection, it does not seem to portray real connectedness with others, but an escape from boredom, which speaks volumes.
If I think about shaping technology, I think that what is shaping technology is how disconnected people feel from themselves and the world they live in, and all of this technology is an extension of this feeling of separation and a desire of connection, but one that lacks personality. Edward Hall wrote many books about man and his extensions and the dangers of our extensions becoming more than we are ourselves and taking over, and here we are!