Friday, August 09, 2013

Alone Together

Just ate lunch at the student union. At one table next to me was a group of four 20-something working-guys. During the ENTIRE LUNCH, two of them were looking at their hand-held devices and the other two were staring at the TV screen above their heads. At another close-by table were three students. Two on their devices. One with a newspaper in front of his face. (How old-school of him!)

Just wondering: WHAT IS THE POINT of going to lunch with other people if you're going to refuse to talk to them?

While trying to find a photo online to illustrate what I saw at lunch today (since, even if I'd had a camera with me, I couldn't very well start snapping away at the sociological specimens!), I came upon a mention of a 2012 book that sounds interesting -- "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other." But I thought this comment from a reviewer on Amazon regarding the author's indictment of current technological trends was extremely astute:

The same logic would indict countless other technologies:

* The printing press leads humans to seek their relationships in pages rather than with each other?

* The telephone allows people to maintain long-distance "virtual" relationships rather than focus on their more "real-world" local friends?

* A doll diminishes a child's ability to form relationships, since a doll's emotions are projected by the child, whereas real relationships are based on emotions and thoughts arising from both parties?

I suspect all of these are partly true, but are hardly grounds for being a Luddite. Our home may be devoid of talking toys (see above), but books, telephones, and dolls are all present.

I could even use the same logic to indict the author herself:

* The increasingly reliance on psychologists like Sherry Turkle, who we pay to listen to our problems, has diminished our ability to form real human relationships based on mutual give and take.

As the TV-watchers and newspaper-reader illustrated to me today: We, as a species, have always found SOMETHING to enable us to escape our "dreary" ACTUAL companions!

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