FastCompany posted an awesome interview with Sherry Turkle, ““Alone Together”: An MIT Professor’s New Book Urges Us to Unplug“, the author of the book Alone Together. The book’s subtitle is telling: “Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.” This all reminds me of the Creation is Crucifixion song with the absurdly long title, “The Allegory Of The Algorithm (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Mimesis)” with poignant lyrics:
etched in silicon my heart is uploaded etched in silicon my soul is uploaded we are the beast we are machine coders beware the life you replicat[e] may be your own the coded fight back transistors resist in silicon we are buried etched in blood we are uploaded a mark on us all evolving algorithms’ are not the answer.
To me, the song speaks of a digital divide between our real lives and almost surreal ones on the Internet. Turkle writes about this very topic, arguing that because our technology is now so overwhelming – she interviewed people who receive 1,000 e-mails per day – we increasing become dependent on it for connection, for hope, and even for validation. I’ve often argued that Facebook, besides its use as a hook-up tool (let’s get real, folks: why did you originally join?), is one big validation fest. Here are my thoughts, my links, my information, for my friends to validate and make me feel worthy. Sure, being social is a valid human interaction, but it takes on a whole new level of craziness online when it can happen lightning fast with almost no inflection, sincerity, or emotion. About the title of the book, Turkle writes:
If you get into these email, Facebook thumbs-up/thumbs-down settings, a paradoxical thing happens: even though you’re alone, you get into this situation where you’re continually looking for your next message, and to have a sense of approval and validation. You’re alone but looking for approval as though you were together–the little red light going off on the BlackBerry to see if you have somebody’s validation. I make a statement in the book, that if you don’t learn how to be alone, you’ll always be lonely, that loneliness is failed solitude. We’re raising a generation that has grown up with constant connection, and only knows how to be lonely when not connected. This capacity for generative solitude is very important for the creative process, but if you grow up thinking it’s your right and due to be tweeted and retweeted, to have thumbs up on Facebook…we’re losing a capacity for autonomy both intellectual and emotional.
To be tweeted and retweeted…wow. Is that the generation we’re raising? Will they even know how to carry on a normal conversation, or will it all be through screens? It makes me want to escape, I’ll tell you what. But as scary as everything is, it is such a powerful source of information dissemination (see this blog, for example). Perhaps we need to find a balance, but even then, the allure of the instantaneous social networks tend to pull us back in. Are we doomed to a ultimately wired existence?