Tomorrow’s convocation will be given by Sherri Turkle, MIT Professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Admittedly, we have not heard her speech yet, having also read parts of her book, we had an interesting conversation in the office about her book’s main thesis—that modern technology has made our priorities more about convenience and control, and less about the quality of our relationships with other human beings.
It’s an interesting theory, and it certainly lends itself to well to discussion. But while we can agree that we’re definitely pretty attached with technology, we also found ourselves heartily disagreeing as well.
Almost all of us have heard adults claim that our generation is “too attached” to technology, but as a member of that generation, I see it from a different perspective. One of Turkle’s pointed criticisms in her book is the idea that technology has diminished our social skills, because on the internet, we can edit or delete our thoughts before sharing them. Turkle believes that these qualities have made us less conscious of our social skills, but I would argue that it has had the opposite effect on me.
Throughout my childhood and well into my years as a teenager, I was the child who always said whatever came to my mind. In other words, I put my foot in my mouth—a lot. When I started using facebook and email, however, I had the newfound ability to think about what I was writing before I shared those words with others. ommunicating with others through technology forced me to think about the effect that my words would have on other people, a pretty valuable lesson for a fairly awkward kid who always seemed to say the wrong thing. Over time, this habit has become ingrained; thinking before I speak, while not quite second-nature, is certainly more of a habit.
This change is partly the result of growing up, but I honestly think that communicating through technology improved, rather than impeded, my social skills. That said, we’re all aware—some of us more acutely than others—that social media has its pitfalls. Anonymity and cyberbullying are not issues to be taken lightly. But unlike the generation above us, our view on technology’s influence is a little more positive.
To be fair, we haven’t seen Ms. Turkle speak (by then, this issue will have been published), but at the very least, we can thank her for providing us with a completely technology-free method of procrastination: discussion.