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Alone together

June 7, 2022

Why are we expecting more from technology and less from each other?

The book, with the oxymoron title Alone Together, written by Sherry Turkle, dives into the counterintuitive fact that we collectively are getting more connected each passing day while technology becomes more pervasive, yet individually we feel more alone and afraid of intimacy. We seem determined to give human qualities to objects and increase content to treat each other as things.

Turkle writes her unique perspective as a psychologist after decades of observations surrounding the evolving relationship between people and their devices.

She highlights the sobering thought that if more and more people say they feel a need for a robot companion -- or even a robot marriage -- for either love or sex, then we must be failing each other. Furthermore, as social networking sites (SNS) proliferated, everyone got conditioned to keep up 'identity workshops' often referred to as online profiles. As we distribute ourselves, we may be abandoning ourselves. As we are physically surrounded by other people we care about, more often than not we now are with our minds elsewhere. Nowadays it has become the norm that we put the people in front of us 'on hold' as we attend to the notification bell that signals something unknown, but something new nonetheless.

We spread ourselves too thin as we somewhere apparently decided we are always interpretable. It brings us into a world of continuous partial attention (CPA) as we rapidly task-switch (or 'multitask' as most people call it) from one unfulfilling task to another. Turkle's insights show how things rapidly changed in ways that people from only a decade ago could never have envisioned, or tolerate for that matter. The telling question arises:

When was the last time you felt so engaged in the activity at hand that you didn't want to be interrupted?