I like the concluding recommendation in this article and this TED talk by Susan Turkle for learning to love yourself better by being comfortable with and appreciative of solitude. However I think that Turkle's TED talk and her new book Alone Together,make a fatally flawed assumption that using things such as texting and social media are eliminating our alone time and that our virtual means of expressing our emotions are replacing the real ones and lessening our human connections.
I simply don’t buy into Turkle’s assumptions that we are letting technology "take us places we don't want to go." and her conclusion that"The little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don't eve change what we do, they change who we are."
Sorry Susan, but in my experience and observations at least NO! this is NOT necessarily so and WE as fundamentally social animals decide how, when and where to use tools and technology . While learning to choose the best tool for the job and how to use it well is a big challenge that takes time and lots of experiential learning to figure out, and this is an exponentially increasing learning curve in our world filled with such abundance of choice, most of us DO figure it out and are all the richer for it in terms of improved connections with the other special snowflakes we chose to include in our lives. Some of us are slower to learn than others and we pay lots of “stupid tax” in the wonderful cycle of try/fail/learn/adjust/repeat, but this tax amounts to less than a rounding error in the overall net value we gain through such learning.
While I understand that there are some glaring examples of poor choices we make along this learning curve which gossip and the media focus on, based on my experiences and observations, these examples are by far the vocal minority and represent a small extreme end of the spectrum of human behavior. Surely by now we understand that such examples and “failures” are necessary components of learning and improvement and we should see them as positive things we want more of not less in our quest to continuously enrich our lives with greater breadth and depth of connections with both ourselves, our friends and our families?!
History shows that we make this same mistake over and over again where the pundits proclaim the arrival of new tools, technology and media are going to eliminate those that came before. TV was going to eliminate radio, flight was going to eliminate trains and automobiles, eLearning was going to eliminate teachers and so on. While new innovations clearly have a significant influence on what came before, (when was the last time you sat around with friends or family listening to the radio??), the new hardly ever eliminate or replace the old. Our world is much more one of a giant Boolean Add equation than one of subtraction or reduction.
The new and sometimes daunting challenge as we acquire more and more tools in our toolbox is to know how and when to use the right tool for the job. When is a Tweet or a FB update the best choice? When is an Email or a phone call better? When best to wait for the chance to meet in person and what to do in the interim? I concur and hope that we will always prefer in person human contact over more distanced and removed virtual forms, but surely we would also want to augment the limited opportunities we have to be with those we love and care about with every possible means to converse, share, love and learn with them. And as our tools and technology continue up the exponential curves increasing capabilities and decreasing costs, not too how the tools become more and more transparent and the connection we have with others becomes the focus. Does it matter HOW an emotional personal connection with another human happens or that these happen more often for all 7+ billion of us snowflakes?
Turkle posits that our increased use of digital technology to converse with each other is lessening our ability to self reflect. Seriously? For me at least it has produced the exact opposite effect and something I’ve blogged about several times on my Learnativity blog as I try to reconcile how I can have so many deeply rich experiences in my day to day live in such a very short time. It is an effect I have called ELD or Exponential Learning Density which I believe is created by a cycle of living IN the abundance of moments life offers us every day, then reflecting upon these and then sharing our thoughts, questions, feelings and learnings with others. My conclusion is that by repeating this cycle of Live-Reflect-Articulate I end up with this extreme “density” or rich learning experiences and a life that is filled with non stop adventures, interactions with others and Mother Nature and more love, life and learning every day. As I reflect back on how filled with rich experiential learning my life is, I still can’t quite comprehend I’m only just starting my fifth year on this grand sailing life adventure!
As one who perhaps has more solitude than most as I wander, wonder and ponder the world one nautical smile at a time single handing my sailboat around the planet, I can offer at least one shining example where I use the entire plethora of means at my avail to express my thoughts, feelings and emotions with the many friends and family who I am blessed to be surrounded by. When I’m with others I meet out here or on my trips back to see friends and family, I’m as good and frequent a hugger as you’ll ever meet, I’m as comfortable kissing men as women (on the cheek/forehead) who I love and care for when I’m given the gift of the opportunity to be with them in person. If I shake your hand, clink glasses with you or talk to you, I will be looking deep into your eyes. However to the best of my knowledge all these people in my life also feel my love and caring for them more often as I use a vast array of tools and technology.that augment my abilities to connect with them. All of these additional means are “virtual” through the use of the increasing abundance of communication choices I have. I care SO much less about the means through which I get to express and share with others as I do with ensuring that we have more and more opportunities to share our lives, learning and love with each other. So let’s please keep our eyes on the prize and not mistake the means we use with the end results of deeper human connection, commitment and conversation and ensure that what we have the most abundance of is Life, Love and Learning!