It's hard to pick up a newspaper these days without finding an article about the declining use of telephone conversations and the rise of texting. The average teenager is said to send/receive about three thousand text messages per month. Just the other day, a friend told me about a local teenager who was sitting on the living room sofa next to her best friend. Perhaps three feet apart, they were texting each other.
I was dumbfounded.
MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who has written extensively about the effects of computers on our lives, describes this kind of behavior in her latest book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.
She reports that:
1. There is a growing tendency to text rather than talk.
2. Online, we perform. Our Facebook page is not who we really are.
3. We are never "alone", and therefore, we are in danger of losing our capacity for solitude.
I took an hour out of my work day to attend a talk by Professor Turkle. I arrived late, and knew that I would have to leave early for a meeting so I sat at the back of the room. When she described her Thanksgiving dinner last November, she admitted that although relatives had flown in from far away, they all had their handheld devices on the table during the meal.
I found her talk fascinating and plan to read her book. However, that didn't stop me from glancing down at my Blackberry. Like her Thanksgiving guests, I was unable to disconnect.