Alone Together

I’ve just finished reading Sherry Turkle’s book: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other. I highly recommend it. 

My immediate thoughts as I finished the book were ‘this is fascinating and depressing’. In the book, she discusses how technology has left us more connected than ever before, but also more alone than ever before. There is little room for hope in the world we seem to have created for ourselves: we have let technology damage us and our relationships. Overall I found it scathing and worryingly accurate to some extent. 

But what about Britain?

Despite that, some of the examples Turkle presented were pretty extreme – such as the mother who doesn’t look up from her BlackBerry as she picks her daughter up from school, or the person attending a memorial service who couldn’t help but pull out her phone. I have never experienced such a dependence on technology myself and it does make me wonder – are we that dependent in Britain? It would be fascinating to do a cross-cultural perspective; and what about the rest of Europe and other developed countries? 

Connected but alone

The narrative which resonated the most with my personal experience was the idea of many weak ties; how online connections and the highly networked enable us to find what we need and dispose of the rest, with little room for creating deep and meaningful connections. This is the really scary element of the book for me, and something I want to look into further – again from a British perspective. 

Nostalgia of the young

Another intriguing part of the book, and another that I could relate to. When I lost my mobile a few months ago and relied on the landline, I felt more ‘authentic’. I felt nostalgic, and I loved the idea of not being available all the time. This nostalgia is also prevalent in teenagers according to Turkle. You can see it current trends – retro design, analogue cameras, old fashioned phones, shops such as Urban Outfitters selling LPs and turntables – we want all of this because the pace of technology has disillusioned us – despite everything that’s going on, we also find a charm and appeal in the simplicity of the past. It makes us feel more ‘authentic’. 

The Self

I work in a University and I know a couple of people are currently carrying out research on social media and communities – yet I am fascinated by the micro level of this. The self – what motivates people to act how they do on the internet. How has it changed how they relate to each other? Is it a good or bad thing? 

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About Karen Patel

PhD candidate in social media and cultural work at Birmingham City University.

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