A TED Talk A Day, Day 46: A powerful talk about the real impact of technology on the relationships we have with ourselves and others, and how it is creating an illusion that we need to get out of.

  1. Mobile phones don’t just change what we do, they change who we are. Things that would have been previously seen as odd have come to be normal, like texting and using Facebook during meetings and during classes. People sit together… but spend their times on their mobile phones.
  2. Some say that it is about control, that we are now able to control what we want to pay attention to. But we if we do that we end up hiding from each other even as we are “connected”. “People can’t get enough of each other, if, and only if, they can have each other at a distance, at amounts they can control.”
  3. Posting and texting allows us to present the self we others to see. Human relationships are messy, but technology allows us to edit and touch up the things we say and what we present to others.
  4. The sum total of all the little bits of communication does not equal a conversation. They are good for small, quick messages, but are not good for us to learn from each other.
  5. By not having real conversations, we compromise our ability for self-reflection, which is especially crucial for children. “We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves.”
  6. Many people admit to Turkle that they wish Siri (Apple iOS’ voice-activated “personal assistant”) would develop to a point where they could have a conversation with her.
  7. People feel that no one is listening. This tempts us to want to have machines that can offer us companionship.
  8. We expect more from technology and less from each other. We are now beginning to invent machines that can emulate the behaviour of living creatures; yet they are not actually animate, and cannot truly empathise with us.
  9. We’re lonely but we’re afraid of intimacy. So we end up designing technology that gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
  10. The phone in our pockets create 3 “gratifying fantasies”:
    1. We can control our attention and put it wherever we want it to be.
    2. We will always be heard.
    3. We will never have to be alone.
  11. When we are alone we begin to panic, and reach for our phone. So we reach for connection, but this connection is a symptom of a problem that is not solved rather than being the solution to it.
  12. We now believe in this: “I share therefore I am.” When we don’t share we can’t seem to “feel ourselves”. So as we try to connect we become isolated.
  13. We become isolated is when we do not have the capacity for solitude, to be separate from others. When this happens we turn to others to even feel alive. And when we do this we don’t actually appreciate who others are; we are merely using them for our own purposes.
  14. “If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely.”
  15. The point in the end is not to reject our devices, but to be more aware of our relationships with them, with others and with ourselves.
  16. Make room for solitude. Teach this to children. Create sacred spaces for conversation, at home and at work.
  17. Listen to each other, including the “boring” bits. In the imperfect moments we reveal ourselves to one another.

Suggested action step: I will create opportunities to connect with others in a real way, and help others to connect.