Thursday, April 5, 2012
Ted Talk: Connected, but Alone?
A very good Ted Talk by Sherry Turkle. I strongly identified with her opening statement. I first went on-line when I was the young mother of two children under the age of two. I joined a "Stay at Home Mother" mailing list and I was hooked immediately. I learned to type one-handed as I breastfed my daughter. It kept me sane. As the children grew I moved into other types of virtual communities. I was a big fan of Howard Rheingold, author of Virtual Communities, and I joined an on-line community that he founded called Electric Minds and I ended up moderating one of the forums. That venture eventually crashed and the community moved to another site called Brainstorms. Those were heady days. We felt like pioneers and I had the pleasure of meeting some very interesting people and even participated in research for a dissertation on on-line communities by a Dutch researcher. It was a good experience but I found that it had its limits. As my friend, the late John Ross of Seattle, put it, "Virtual communities are a real time sink." He himself spent an enormous amount of time on the Well and he warned me about the all-consuming nature of these kinds of communities. John was something of a curmudgeon but he was absolutely right. So I cut much of my on-line activities out of my life for a few years and only came back a couple of years ago to do this blog. I also made a number of rules for myself that I try very hard to follow consistently: turn off the phone at certain times of the day, keep the ratio of books to internet articles high, get out of the house and talk to people at least once a day "face to face," write letters from time to time (you know, the snail mail kind) and pick up the phone instead of sending an email. Turkle is right and all too often we use our computers and other devices to avoid being present. Connectivity is one of the miracles of our time but there are other miracles that you will never find in what we rather quaintly referred to as "cyberspace" (does anyone still use that term?): blue skies, fast trains and having coffee with a good friend in the sun on a busy Parisian boulevard.