Sunday, April 22, 2012

Looking forward by looking backward.

In today's "New York Times" there are two separate articles that I think are important harbingers that something is rotten in the digital world. While digitally-driven companies like Google and Facebook claim they want to change the world--that kind of hubris is in their very mission statements--they don't seem to realize that real human intercourse will never be replaced by binary code or 140-character tweets.

As I mentioned in a previous post, travel agents, all-but-obsolete travel agents, are making a come-back. Also in the paper today is an op-ed by a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. called Sherry Turkle. Turkle's article is called "The Flight from Conversation," and it's about, in broad terms, modern-day man's inability to connect with other people. Turkle's article starts this way, "We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection." You can read the well-worthwhile article here:

Turkle's point is a simple one. We have millions of ways to connect, but few ways to really make connection. She says, "At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates..."

What Turkle suggests is this, "Face-to-face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters."

 :-( My dog ran away, my wife is having an affair and my dad has cancer.

Here's some more Turkle: "We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely. 

"I am a partisan for conversation. To make room for it, I see some first, deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.” We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work. There we are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters."

I think at some point more people will realize that community--real community, not a Facebook group, and people, real people, matter. All human contact cannot be digitized. Such technology might be changing the world, but perhaps not for the better.

Many exponents of new media think that anything new changes everything old. But much of what is old is hard-wired into us. The touch of a loved one. A dewy-eyed look of understanding.  A sign. A real laugh not an LOL.

In other words, a kiss is still a kiss/a sigh is just a sigh/ the fundamental things apply/ as time goes by.

No comments: