Technology connects us. So why are we so lonely or feel ignored? The Millennial generation is defined as Generation “We,” yet they acknowledge their decreasing capacity for human engagement. In our growing connectivity lies the terrible truth of our disquieting solitude.
Sherry Turkle’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, The Flight from Conversation, sadly reflects on society’s diminished appreciation for and application of conversation. We have lost the ability to appreciate human nuance, mannerisms, patience and engagement. Turkle asserts that:
We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
Our technologies seem to promise innumerable acquaintances and an avid audience. But this is a delusion. Technology is disabling our tolerance for relationships, to the degree that Turkle identifies a growing affinity for automated “people,” like Apple’s Siri rather than real humans, in all their deep, rich complexity. How deep is the abyss of our isolation when we’d rather befriend a robot than a person? How incapable are we of embracing our emotions?
I do not know how this disheartening social trend took hold so virulently. It surely is not solely the fault of technology. What other factors have created this apathy towards engaging with the human experience? Could it be a growing individual narcissism, social condescension to intellectual engagement or smug superficiality? Whatever the factors, the need to embrace conversation is apparent. Turkle concludes her piece with the exhortation to make space for conversation. She tells of, “A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, ‘Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.’” I would say: Squish!