Poll: Is Technology Impairing Our Intimate Connections?

MIT professor and psychologist, Dr. Sherry Turkle, was a recent speaker at TED Talks.

Dr. Turkle’s presentation focused on five themes: hand-held electronic devices are changing who we are and what we do, communicating in quick blurbs from electronic platforms does not build real relationships, we are expecting more from technology and less from each other, we are sacrificing conversation for connection, and constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves.

The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.” (Dr. Sherry Turkle)



What do you think? Are we afraid of intimacy and revealing our true selves to others? Does technology complicate relationships? Is technology affecting the human experience?

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  1. I enjoyed listening to Dr. Turkle’s piece and couldn’t agree more. The pervasiveness of technology and “escapism” is breeding a new generation of introverts.

  2. As a father of three who grew up with meaningful communications of the written word (through letters), I can see the impact of increasingly disposable digital communications on my three kids. Technology has greatly increased the frequency of our communications at the expense of the quality of what we say. In fact we are communicating more but really saying much less. My kids don’t know this yet because they have not yet (or maybe never will) amassed a shoebox of letters, a collection of completed thoughts and a more expansive expression of true feeling. The attributes of a letter (time, thought, purpose, and permanence) have been diluted through the ease of such fragmented communications. As such, people write less letters of consequence – if they write them at all – and we in return receive less impact to the potential power of the written (or typed) word found in a letter. Maybe there is a chance for us to harness technology to revive letters (both paper and digital) in order to shed light on brilliant letters from the past and inspire a new generation of letters to be written. In the future we will better learn the true personal histories of this time period through the lens of letters rather than the scattered crumbs of thought tossed across “likes” and twitter handles. Regarding “intimacy,” who would ever trade their 300 prized paper letters in exchange for even 3 million tweets or likes? Save letters. Write letters. And take time to write. – Founder of lettrs.com and West Point 89 graduate.

  3. Is Technology Impairing Our Intimate Connections?


    The questions that arise are 1) what will the outcomes be? 2) what will the outcomes be?

  4. I think there is a lot “lost” in technological communication. Inflection is not communicated through text. I’ve been trying to text less and speak more, especially for anything important. And the “story of my life” written on social media sites kinda takes a lot of the mystery and intrigue out of relationships. When you can pull up someones web page and read about everything they’ve ever done, you aren’t exactly inclined to share as many stories.

  5. So, it would be good to learn about our identities online – but it’s “taking us where we don’t want to go” if we change who we are? How can one’s identity remain in stasis when interacting with new connections?

    I can’t see much difference between her complaints about technology, and early complaints about the novel. People will escape into imaginary worlds! They’ll do it at inappropriate times! They won’t be able to relate to their friends anymore!

    And as for the complaint that we “can’t get enough of each other, but only at a distance they can control?” I can’t see how this is any different from how we’ve treated each other for all of human time. What’s wrong with editing, retouching, ourselves – the “personal project” of the modern individual? Is there an inherently born identity of ourselves we erase when we retouch and edit, or are we changing ourselves as we interact this way – as we delete curse words, maybe, or edit out vitriol and passive aggressive behavior. That young man wants one day to learn how to have a conversation because his society is telling him that the conversations he has every day by text are not valuable, not legitimate. Why not? Because our definition of “good behavior” hasn’t caught up with our technology.

    One of my friends cheated on her boyfriend. I sent her a 4-text long suggestion on how to deal with it, how to approach him, and what her responsibilities were to him. I’m not sure if wanting SIRI to be your best friend is more a desire “to have someone listening” as it is to have a personal yes-man in your pocket. SIRI might be your best friend – but the minute she challenges you outside of your comfort zone, we know you can turn her off or reprogram her. But how is the technological, contemporary incarnation of the desire for unquestioning affirmation unique to the 21st century?

    It isn’t. Why is it alarming to have a woman talking about death to a mechanical seal, but everyone is so happy that my grandmother has her little dog to keep her company? A dog might look like it understands its mortality, but it doesn’t. I think about the social rules governing Victorian England and the workplaces of today. We’ve always been afraid of how other people are going to interact with us, how they’re going to disappoint us, and how infinite our solitude in the world truly can be – so we’ve used the tools of language, social decorum, and, yes, now technology, to insulate us from the pain of being a singular human being.

    So yes, we are afraid of being alone. But we have always been afraid of being alone, and the reason we have authors like Virginia Woolf and movies like The Graduate is because our social tools have never “solved the underlying problem.” Our social tools have never taught us how to be happy alone, so why do even expect that the tools of this generation should be able to do so?

    The internet isn’t the problem. Using technology isn’t the problem – I agree with her that it’s the way we use it that can be problematic. But then why doesn’t Turkle pay attention to the way we listen to things that are online, or spend time alone and happy with the internet? Nobody has ever convinced me that plugged-in is inherently less valuable than offline existence.

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