Connection is no communication.
Sherry Turkle (see photo) writes in her third book Alone together about the dangers of the internet. Being connected makes us unable to be with the people who surround us. She sees parents at a playground who are texting while their children are playing. Internet conversation are not like real life conversations with their ups and downs. We are the ideal self we want to be in stead of our real selves. On Facebook we don’t want to say something negative, because we fear missing out. We are hiding from ourselves, afraid to show us to another as we really are. It is impossible to interrupt during a internet conversation. We don’t learn to get to know the other person.
Adolescents think they’ll never be alone, surrounded as they are by technology. They want to have a feeling and therefore go to internet instead of havintg a desire to communicate their feelings. They are not entering a relationship and not learning a kind of solitude, which refreshes and restores the mind. When adolescents don’t learn to be alone, they will become lonely.
Daphne mentions that in the Netherlands this week is the week against loneliness. A Dutch sociologist says that the internet helps to battle loneliness.
Sherry answers that it depends. Social media can also be a means to reach out.
DB: in your first books The Second Self and Life on the Screen you were more optimistic about this technology. Were you wrong?
ST: no, it explores our identity. In 1995, though, I saw that this technology was always on and always on us like a phantom limb. We bail out when a conversation becomes difficult and go to a virtual place.
DB: are we not in a transional phase, learning how to deal with this technology?
ST: I hope so.
DB: in your book you make a distinction between youngsters and adults.
ST: I first thought that teenagers were the victims and that adults just looked on, but later on I discovered that parents were texting and their childern were begging them for attention. So I am optimistic that they don’t let this happen to their children in the future.
DB: there are 800 millions of Facebook users. The fastest population is between 35 and 44 years old. Why is that?
ST: they are thrilled by the newness and vulnerable to the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
DB: I am happy with internet because, instead of phoning, I can choose to whom and how to respond.
ST: teenagers are phobic to have a conversation and they don’t learn to do it this way.
Sherry speaks about a masterclass and mixed answers about privacy, which is the defining issue of our time, she says. Some young people say they don’t need privacy because they have nothing to hide, but we also need privacy for democracy.
DB: why is that?
ST: each citizen needs a space for some kind of descend. My grandma said that mail was private in the US. Just because we grow up with the internet, we think we are grown up, but we aren’t. We have to find out about our privacy. Consumer movements can help us with that.
DB: was there not a lack of communication before the internet period?
ST: technology is not a fundamental solution to social problems.
DB: is internet a symptom for loneliness?
ST: yes, a yearning for technology is a symptom of the unability to have a conversation.
DB: what can we do about it?
ST: ask yourself what this technology is costing you and find out what is a more fruitful digital diet.
Americans are more afraid to be negative than Europeans is my impression.
I guess that Evgeny Morozov will have another opinion about the fruitfullness of internet for democracy.
My children are very active on the internet, but also have a lot of parties with their friends.
Daphne Bunskoek is not on Facebook, neither on Twitter.