BILL MOYERS: Enough of politics, the debt and that spectacle in Washington. Let’s change the subject.

If you’ve ever lost your smartphone, as I have, you know it can feel like a death. The experience highlights just how our world has been engulfed by social media and how our technology has become a vital organ of our being.

And it's happened so fast. Facebook is not quite 10 years old, Twitter is younger still. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg told a reporter that in 2016 -- just three years from now -- “people are going to be sharing eight to ten times as much stuff.”

Like anything hurtling us forward at breakneck speed, the advancements are great, and so are the dangers. For every Arab Spring or political movement using social media to foment change, there may also be campaigns of abuse and hate. For every Wikileak and revealed secret, there’s the encroachment on personal privacy by the NSA. For every new friend meeting through cyberspace, there’s the risk of estrangement from the real world.

Our devices change not only what we do but also who we are. So I’ve come to Sherry Turkle to try to explain how and why. She’s a clinical psychologist who was one of the first to study the impact of computers on culture and society.

A professor at MIT and Director of that school’s Initiative on Technology and Self, she’s written several important books based on deep research and hundreds of interviews with children and adults alike. Her most recent sums up her conclusions: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

BILL MOYERS: Sherry Turkle, welcome.

SHERRY TURKLE: Pleasure to be here.

BILL MOYERS: I saw a video the other day that I want to share with you. It's now been seen 25 million times –


BILL MOYERS: --on YouTube. Here it is.

WOMAN #1 in I Forgot My Phone: …This guy…I’m not, I’m not…

WOMAN #2 in I Forgot My Phone: Wow.

WOMAN #1 in I Forgot My Phone: …But like if you…it’s not – it’s not real –

MAN in I Forgot My Phone: I don’t think it’s real. I don’t think it’s real.

WOMAN #2 in I Forgot My Phone: Maybe there’s a –

WOMAN #1 in I Forgot My Phone: Did you guys see the lineup for cars …wasted … the Empire State Building is like, really close to it.

BILL MOYERS: What are you thinking as you look at that?

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, I call it "alone together." That we're moving to a space where we feel free to respond to the three promises that technology now makes us, that we can always be heard, that we can be wherever we want to be, and that we never have to be alone.

And that third promise actually is terribly important because I believe that the capacity for solitude is terribly important to develop. I even believe that if you don't teach your children to be alone, they'll only know how to be lonely. And by not developing this capacity for solitude, we're not doing our children a favor.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, there are many things that we're doing that are having bad effects on our kids because we're really not looking at the implications of immersing ourselves in mobile technology to the degree that we have. And what it's doing to, not just our children, but to our family lives, to our social life, to our political life. I’ll give you a good example.

BILL MOYERS: All right.

SHERRY TURKLE: John McCain recently, under the pressure of the discussion of the Syrian crisis, said that was boring. And he needed to go to something that was more stimulating. And so he went to a game. And what that showed is that what we're going to is something that revs us up and puts us, we know, neurochemically in a state where we're less able to come back and be part of the give and take of human conversation.

BILL MOYERS: I mean, isn't every media revolution greeted with the kinds of concerns we've been expressing? Haven't we adults all through history always said that this is how the--

SHERRY TURKLE: "This is a terrible one," right.


SHERRY TURKLE: I face this question every day, of: I welcome the internet, I welcome the mobile technology. I'm saying there are certain ways we're using it that are not taking account of how misusing it, overusing it, can really threaten things that we care about.

It's a question of technological affordance and human vulnerability. This is a technology to which we are particularly vulnerable in certain ways. A mother adores being with her children.

And yet with this technology, she is so vulnerable to the stimulation of knowing what the next message is on her cell phone, that when she picks her kid up at school and the kid comes into the car, this is the gesture she makes to her child. "Let me just finish this one last email. Let me just get this one message."

And does not make eye contact with the child as the child comes in. It's the desire to look at that one last message that causes her to go like that to her child. Now that's not saying there's anything wrong with a cell phone. It's saying that we are so vulnerable to the seduction of who wants to reach us, what sweetness is coming through the phone, that we're really at a point where we turn away from our kids.

BILL MOYERS: So what sweetness is that attractive?

SHERRY TURKLE: The sweetness of something new that's coming into us on our phone. People talk to me about, you know, not being able to tolerate not knowing what that new thing that's coming in on the phone is. I mean, kids sit in class now and they, you know, the phone is in the bag or the phone is on the floor, and they check regularly what new texts are coming in.

BILL MOYERS: Do you have boundaries for them--

SHERRY TURKLE: Every professor--

BILL MOYERS: Do you push back?

SHERRY TURKLE: Every professor knows this. Well, I had a thing in class where the kids, I was teaching a class on memoir at MIT, and it was about these kids' fantastic stories about their lives. And a group of the class came to me and said, "You know, we're texting in class. And, you know, we feel bad because the rest of the kids, I mean, they're talking about their lives." And I said, "Well, we have to discuss this as a class." And basically, they said, "We are not as strong as technology's pull."

BILL MOYERS: What did they mean by that?

SHERRY TURKLE: They were not as strong.

BILL MOYERS: They couldn't say no?

SHERRY TURKLE: They could not say no. They could not say no to the feeling that somebody wanted them. Somebody was reaching out to them. The neurochemical hit of constant connection is what we are -- is what we have now.

BILL MOYERS: The multitasking?

SHERRY TURKLE: It is -- we definitely get a high from multitasking.

BILL MOYERS: Are our brains programmed to do four to six things at the same time?

SHERRY TURKLE: No. There's really no such thing as multitasking. Studies show decisively that your behavior, your performance degrades for every new task you multitask.

So when you add a new task, your performance degrades in all of the tasks you're doing. But there's a catch. You think you're doing better in each of the tasks you're doing. So multitasking, which we hyped and hyped as kind of-- this is what this technology allowed for us, is actually the first thing that we need to address in order to do serious work.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you have helped me to understand a puzzle because in your earlier book, “Life on the Screen,” you were optimistic. You thought all of this technology was truly promising.

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, I mean, I've had an evolution in my thinking.

BILL MOYERS: And what was the critical factor in that?

SHERRY TURKLE: Because in the early days of the internet, people went online, in those days anonymously, and could create identities online that were very different from the identities they had in the real.

And people were experimenting with gender with, you know, the shy would be less shy, and people, as I studied them online, were really using online identity to work through questions of kind of experimenting using the online world as a sort of identity workshop to play with questions of kind of experimenting, using the online world as a sort of identity workshop, to play with questions of who they were and to experiment with being a little bit different. And I thought that was very exciting.

What I did not see, call me not prescient, was that my idea of how we would be thinking about identity had a model of a person at a computer playing with identity, and then after you played with your identity at the computer, then you would get up from your computer, having experimented with identity, and you would go out to the world, into the world, and you would live your life having learned these lessons from your online identity. When the book was written, I looked around me, and there were already people in my environment using computers that they called the "wearable computers."

BILL MOYERS: Wearable?

SHERRY TURKLE: Wearable computers. They had antennae, they had keyboards in their pockets, they had glasses that were their screens, and they were wearing the web on them. In other words, they looked very science fiction. They basically had a portable phone. They were-- they could be--

BILL MOYERS: You were wearing it?

SHERRY TURKLE: --on the web, they were wearing it. They could be on the web all the time.

BILL MOYERS: It was their uniform.

SHERRY TURKLE: It was their uniform. They could be on the web all the time. And that meant once you had this device with you all the time, you didn't have this division of time at the computer or not with the computer. You had this always on, always-on-you device, and you had the possibility of being always, always in this world of the web.

BILL MOYERS: But what's wrong with that? I ask that seriously because, you know--

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, that is--

BILL MOYERS: --E. M. Forster said, "Only connect."

SHERRY TURKLE: That changed everything. Because people then, the kids in my class who were looking down at their phones through the entire lecture included, the people in church who text during services, who text during funerals included, everyone is always having their attention divided between the world of the people we're with and this other reality.

We now walk around with our heads down. I walked over here this morning, everybody is like this. I--

BILL MOYERS: That's dangerous in New York City--

SHERRY TURKLE: It's dangerous. There's even a New Yorker cover I think about a family, you know, who are at the beach, and their heads are in their phones. I mean, we are always equally in the world of the machine, in the world that's in the phone and in the rest of the world.

BILL MOYERS: That New Yorker cover's a long way from the covers we used to see on "The Saturday Evening Post," particularly in Norman Rockwell's famous depiction of Thanksgiving dinner around the table, serving the turkey with all the kids and grandparents entering into the conversation--

SHERRY TURKLE: Right, right. If I came into this conversation and just put my iPhone down and we started to talk, what we would discuss in this conversation would radically change.

Because you’d feel, and you'd be right to feel, that I'm, you know, partly waiting to be interrupted by all the things people, experiences, emotions, connections that are here. And that changes what people will talk about, the amount of investment they'll make in the conversation, the nature of the degree of emotional content they will put into a conversation.

BILL MOYERS: What is this doing to us as human beings? The fact that we're constantly at--

SHERRY TURKLE: It's keeping us more at the surface of things. I went to a dinner of a group of young people, constant, constant interruption. Everybody has a phone, phones are going off constantly, the average teenage girl is interrupted once every four or five minutes by an incoming or an outgoing text.

So five people out to dinner, I mean, it was a constant interruption. And I'll say to them, "How do you feel about the interruptions?" And they say, "What interruptions?" Because they experience these interruptions as connection.

Things have gotten so bad that the culture is starting to present things that used to be dystopian as utopian. And my best example is dinner. There's an ad for Facebook which-- a dinner, a typical Norman Rockwell dinner, the type you were evoking.

Big family, and extended family is at dinner. And you know this is going to be good, because dinner is the thing that we all know protects against juvenile delinquency, people stay in school if they have dinner with their families. It protects against, you know, everything bad and it encourages everything good in the growing up as a child.

BILL MOYERS: There are studies that confirm that?

SHERRY TURKLE: Studies confirm dinner with your family, just have dinner with your children. So we know this is going to be good. And this family is having dinner. And then all of a sudden, one of the members of the family, let's call her "Aunty," starts to get boring. A young girl, let's say a 19-year-old girl -- we’ve hit a "boring bit." And this girl is not going to take a "boring bit." And she takes out her phone, and on her phone she goes to Facebook. And from her phone comes out snowball fights and football games and ballet things, all the things that are on her phone come out of her phone.

And she's not at the dinner anymore. She's into this other world of Facebook, all the "boring bits" are gone, Facebook and all the things that are on her Facebook are now at the dinner, on the table. She's surrounded by this other world. She's smiling, she's happy. And so, I mean, essentially Facebook has taken out an ad against conversation at family dinner.

The big issue is whether or not we're moving to a culture, and we are, where people can no longer tolerate what I'm calling the "boring bits.

BILL MOYERS: The boring --

SHERRY TURKLE: The “boring bits" of human conversation. I call it a "flight from conversation." Because we've become increasingly intolerant of the way in which we stumble and make mistakes and kind of have to backtrack, particularly when we're talking about things that are complicated and hard. And you have to sort of work with somebody and get -- this is conversation.

And children have to be taught, and this is why it's a gift to them to say, "Put down the device and let's talk." And so what concerns me as a developmental psychologist, watching children grow in this new world where being bored is something that never has to be tolerated for a moment. You can always go someplace where you're stimulated, stimulated, stimulated, is that people are losing that capacity. And that's very serious.

BILL MOYERS: What is it about face-to-face conversation you think people don't like?

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, I once asked a 16-year-old who was talking about how much he doesn't like conversation. He actually had just said to me, "Someday, someday soon, but certainly not how, I'd like to learn how to have a conversation." And I said, "What's wrong with conversation?" And he said, "It takes place in real time and you can't control what you're going to say."

And this is crucial for what digital technology has given us that has made conversation seem like something that we can avoid. Let's say the old kind of conversation, which is open-ended, which is that when you type or use digital media, you can edit, you can correct, you can get it right, you feel less vulnerable. I call it the "Goldilocks Effect."

BILL MOYERS: Goldilocks?

SHERRY TURKLE: The "Goldilocks Effect--"

BILL MOYERS: Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

SHERRY TURKLE: Right. We want to be in touch with more and more people, carefully kept at bay. Not too close, not too far, just right, edited, made -- with our communications edited, made perfect. Goldilocks.

BILL MOYERS: Everyone across the spectrum is talking about technology overuse, including comedians. I came across this moment on YouTube where Louis C.K. is talking about his own kid. Here it is.

LOUIS C.K.: My daughter was having a dance thing at her school. They had this big dance. Anyway, we all went, all the parents, and everybody's there, and everybody's got their phone. Every single parent, it was an amazing thing to watch, because kids are dancing, and every parent is standing there like this. Every single person was blocking their vision of their actual child with their phone.

And the kids, I went over by the stage and the kids, there's people holding iPads in front of their faces. Why are you taping this? You’re never going to watch it. You don’t watch it, you just put it on Facebook, “Here, you watch it.”

BILL MOYERS: It's a funny video, but he isn't sure he likes what's happening.

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, I mean, it -- I mean, there's so many things going on in this. I mean, we are living the kind of mediated, a mediated existence where, you know, capturing the event in order to then post it, really has become, has come to seem normal.

So I call it, "I share therefore I am." I mean, it's kind of a way of living where you don't feel fully as though you're living if you haven't shared it in this new way.

In other words, it's almost as though you don't have the feeling, or the feeling is -- you get the feeling, or the feeling begins to come to you. You feel more yourself, you begin to feel yourself as you mesh yourself with the means of communication.

BILL MOYERS: So sending is being?

SHERRY TURKLE: Sending is being. It's starting to be that sending is being. And I think that this has a, potentially a downside, because, you know, you begin to not have as much a feeling of autonomy and sense of self if your way of thinking about yourself is so tied into sharing and texting and being enmeshed that way.

BILL MOYERS: Walt Whitman should be around now, Song of Myself--

SHERRY TURKLE: Right, right.

BILL MOYERS: I mean, that's what society--

SHERRY TURKLE: No, it really is a different way of seeing the self. And again, I come back to the importance of solitude, the sense that people need to learn how to gather themselves and be alone and experience solitude, which is different from loneliness. Because the way things are now, you know, people think that loneliness is a problem that needs to be solved and that only technology can solve.

BILL MOYERS: What about technology's ability to enable us to be mean and malicious from a distance without any possibility of retaliation? Why do people behave so differently on social media?

SHERRY TURKLE: Because the face, the presence of another person inhibits the worst in us. And the fact that we can behave as behind a veil brings out this side where you feel as though you're disinhibited. There's no--

BILL MOYERS: You're given permission.

SHERRY TURKLE: You're given permission. You're given permission. People behave -- cyber bullying, people behave as though they're not speaking to another human being.

BILL MOYERS: Did you see the recent story about the 12-year-old girl who took her life after being bullying--


BILL MOYERS: Any take you can give us on that? Any insight you can share with us about how technology feeds something like that? She could've just turned off the phone, put down the phone.

SHERRY TURKLE: No. No, she couldn't. Because the phone has become her lifeline too, to her social world. I think that's sort of what we're saying, is that being part of her social world meant keeping on the phone. These people got to her because she could not be part of being 12 years old in her high school.

BILL MOYERS: You're so on that--

SHERRY TURKLE: Without keeping on her phone.

BILL MOYERS: There was a recent Pew research study that found teenagers are wary of excessive sharing on Facebook but continue to use it because they say it is crucial to their social life.

SHERRY TURKLE: Absolutely, absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: So it's not just the matter of unplugging. If they unplug, they're unplugging from their universe.

SHERRY TURKLE: Yes. And there are many teenagers who I've studied who will unplug for a while, and then plug back in because that is where -- that is sort of where their social life is. That's where their -- that's where they know where the parties are. That's where they know, that's where they find out where things are happening.

BILL MOYERS: So this need for community that they now find technologically seems to me an extension of this powerful appetite that makes us human beings. But you say, I hear you saying, the machine threatens our humanity?

SHERRY TURKLE: Well, I want to say I'm optimistic if it can be used in a way that connects us in ways that will make us more human, as that will bring the human community together. But let me just take politics. I was so optimistic and excited about the connections that people could form politically using the computer.

And there has been some fantastic things, obviously. But very often, people feel as though they've politically participated if they go on a website and they check "like." They feel that that is belonging to a -- making a political statement.

Politics is actually, I think, going into your community, having a conversation, not to overuse the word, disagreeing with somebody, putting yourself into somebody else's head, often very hard,

Looking somebody in the eye, really doing the hard work of empathy, something that you don't learn by email. It's the last place to develop empathic skills. So the question of community and being part of a community is either something that computers can help or that computation can undermine, depending on how we use it.

BILL MOYERS: Have you found that people feel empowered when they can tweet or Facebook their opinions? I’ve found that there's a sense of response people get to their postings of their opinions that make them feel better.


BILL MOYERS: That they're being heard.

SHERRY TURKLE: The feeling of always being heard is great and empowering, but again, the paradox, it can take people away from really doing something, from real action.

I call this "moments of more and lives of less." In other words, you have these moments when you feel as though you're doing more, and you feel empowered, but actually, you haven't engaged with the world. So you feel great, you've tweeted an opinion, you feel, "I'm in the world," but actually, joining a political group, learning something, taking some kind of action in the world, in the real world on the street in your community, would actually be a moment of more.

BILL MOYERS: But that requires negotiation, compromise, even vulnerability.

SHERRY TURKLE: And conversation with other people. That you can't do it from your room, which so much of the internet allows you to do. I mean, in education and in politics, I think we want to go to a place where we're looking to give things the complexity that they deserve.

BILL MOYERS: But many elite institutions are pressing the case for online education.

SHERRY TURKLE: Yes. And this is something that I think is very, very interesting now. It's good for certain kinds of content. It's good for places that couldn't possibly get this education. But I think that the great education happens when there's really a conversation that mixes content, the passion of the instructor, and the conversation with a student who's physically there with the instructor.

As a professor, the teaching of the content happens through the weaving of my passion for my subject with delivering the content. I don't want them to come in for a discussion after they've been alone in their room learning this stuff. I want to be with them while they're learning.

SHERRY TURKLE: So I'm willing to go along with this, if this is for people who don't have access to the ideal. And this is the best they can have. But in technology so often, we use the argument that there's something that's better than nothing. And in all of a sudden, it becomes better than anything. So this thing, this online education, starts out that it's better than nothing, because all these people in third-world, this is the only thing they can have. So it’s better than nothing.

And then all of a sudden, it's better than anything. It's better than anything MIT can provide for our own students, and it begins to creep in. I mean, sell it to other universities in the United States because it's better than what they can provide.

And all of a sudden, it starts to be a model for education. And that's when I think we need to sort of take a breath. My attitude toward so much about technology is really just take a breath and just approach it and say, "Do you really want to say that flipping the classroom is really the best model for everything we're doing?" I'm not so sure.

BILL MOYERS: So do you have a couple of practical things that you would suggest to people about how to use this technology? Facebook, Twitter, social media, for happiness and meaning?

SHERRY TURKLE: I have a lot of practical advice for parents, which is to create sacred spaces in your home.

BILL MOYERS: By which you mean.

SHERRY TURKLE: Places that are device free. Kitchen, dining room, and the car. You can't introduce this idea when your child is 15 that the car is for chatting. From the very beginning, kitchen, dining room, and the car are places where we talk.

And you explain to your child. "This isn't, you know, this is important to me. We're a family. I need to talk to you. I need to talk to you."

BILL MOYERS: Sherry Turkle, I appreciate your coming to share your ideas with us.

SHERRY TURKLE: Thank you so much.

Segment: Sherry Turkle on Being Alone Together

If you think a lot of people are looking down these days, it’s because they are. We often see people focused so intensely on the latest text or tweet coming from their smartphone, that they seem virtually oblivious to the world around them. This week, Bill talks to MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who has studied our relationship with technology for over three decades, about what this constant engagement means for our culture and our society. Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, says our devices are not only changing the way we communicate and interact with each other, but also who we are as human beings. “What concerns me as a developmental psychologist is watching children grow in this new world where being bored is something that never has to be tolerated for a moment,” Turkle tells Moyers. “Everyone is always having their attention divided between the world of people [they’re] with and this ‘other’ reality.”

Producer: Julia Conley. Interview Editor: Sikay Tang.
Intro Editor: Michael Weingrad.

  • submit to reddit
  • Anonymous

    Sherry Turkle reminds us in our quest for ceaseless entertainment provided by technology to stop and think of the repercussions this is having on our humanity. So, stop and ask yourself the question, “Are you using technology or is technology using you?”

  • Therese Tappouni

    My book “The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss” has a section that posits that a 21st Century phenomena called Global Grief is created through the technology that exposes us to everyone’s fears and tragedies.

  • Sherry Swezey

    Cell Phone Beings

    There is a new breed of humans these days,
    They multitask – doing many things at the same time,
    And often hold a cell phone to their ear
    Unable to go for any length of time
    Without talking to someone.

    Used to be we got in our cars
    And for a little while were isolated
    Or separated from others –
    Enclosed in our little boxes with wheels,
    Moving at high rates of speed over roads
    Perhaps listening to our own favorite
    Tapes, later CDs –

    But these new humans
    Now isolate themselves with their cell phones
    Oblivious to anyone around them
    Tuned in only to the conversation in their ear.
    Often even while driving.

    I wonder if they do it
    While making love?

    Sherry Swezey – 10/02

  • Jon

    Growing up as an only child in the time between pay phones
    and cell phones, no internet and wireless, I have seen the difference between people who grew up in the digital age and those who have not. On one hand I see a positive technological solution to
    many of the lonely times I experienced as a young person, and on the other a way for younger people to avoid those similar challenges that have potential to build character. Beyond all the typical rhetoric of criticism
    towards the digital age (inattentive parents, texting while driving, misguided
    educators, people glued to screens), the number one thing I find disturbing is
    how the crafting of ones image and interests now trumps experiencing things in
    real time. Americans will always seem to
    have a level of superficialness and vanity that comes with a first world
    experience, but the terror is seeing people avoiding any conflict, risk, and
    improvisation in everyday life so as not to sacrifice a blow to their
    image. I find this akin to how politicians
    answer questions, how public relations people present solutions, and the
    consensus image of how advertisers think people act. If this is the future of our national “character”
    I am if anything sad and disappointed we have sacrificed the immediate beauty and challenge of
    experience around us for some sort of curated instant nostalgia.

  • Suellen Harris

    How is this different from falling asleep while reading a book, carrying a book in your purse to read if you have to wait for an appointment or in a long line, reading a book on the train or bus, and so on? (I am never without a book and never bored.)

  • Thomas Zakowski

    I think it’s very unhealthy for the very reasons she cited in her thoughts. I still recall 9/11. Now keep in mind I live in a community of roughly 100,000. Now had that happened at a time before the widespread influx of technology the fear response would have been minimal compared to what I witnessed happening here on that day. It’s as if common sense was thrown completely out the window. In many ways I’m grateful to have grown up at a time before all this tech took over. I had my friends, but I also spend time alone. Ironically I was never bored though.

  • Robert G.H. McCausland

    Thank you for the discussion! Provoking a great deal of reflection, as always! Bill, your mentioning Whitman’s “Song of Myself” reminded me of this tour de force resetting by Cate Matthews, “URL of Myself.” An anthemic cri de couer celebrating the internet’s expressiveness and connectedness – with even a little social/political activism thrown in – (can you say “net neutrality”?). Perhaps you can forward this to Ms. Turkle? Again, many thanks, and keep on keepin’ on!

  • Anonymous

    I think all this tech is unhealthy. It is too much. I wouldn’t give a teen a cellphone if I had had one. I would rather call someone than text. Very bad.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Good topic, but consider this: I was viewing the 6:00 PM airing of this episode as a major interruption in my workday but I have been able to read the transcript instead, while keeping half an ear on the Sunday morning talk shows. Thanks, internet. And it’s packaged online so I can find spellings, links, excerpts to share, to build on. Thanks again.
    I think the older generations may be more selective of this globally shared space, and probably don’t need to be told the value of what Turkle calls “sacred spaces,” or the value of solitude for “gathering in,” developing a sense of self, evaluating the interactions, which she says can be so hard. Really? I thought we were hard-wired for interaction, for the “hard work” of empathy. We crave it, the stuff of negotiation and persuasion. The 99 percent syndrome may make it seem futile in many ways, and confusing, nontransparent, but we play at it anyway. I think I’ll call it the “prayer or swear” choice. You can reject a moment’s challenge or crisis with an OMG, or you can seek out the kind of resonance with cultural and historical awareness through meditation/prayer and try to find a way to take the challenge on board.
    And what about kids in large families who never have time “alone,” but instead learn a kind of mutual opacity/transparency, ebb and flow that mediates the connection/interruption hopefully adaptively?

  • Anonymous

    All tech is unhealthy? Then why are you on the internet posting? Over state your case much?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want to answer, I don’t. That’s why we have voice mail. I’m not a slave to someone because they have my number. If it upset’s them that I don’t respond, tough toenails.

  • Anonymous

    Not being able to shut off your phone or ignore a text is another example of self-importance. You don’t take a call will the world cease rotating? Probably not but some believe it will stop.Same people that get an underwear knot over grammar, spelling and punctuation. It’s context. You’re in a hurry and sometime you don’t sepll correctly or maybe I just don’t give a danm if bad spellign bohters uyo.. You have a sick family member in hospital, you might want to answer your cell phone.

  • Anonymous

    Absotively! I’ve been almost run over in the parking garage by those that immediately grab their phones upon sitting down in the car. I may immediately put on music but that started decades ago and I kind of enjoy being certain I don’t flatten anyone in the process.

  • Ken Williams

    Excellent show and topic, Sherry Turkle is excellent at breaking down the states in the way we communicate using technology. “We are so vulnerable to the seduction of newness and who we want to reach us, what sweetness is coming into our phones” We want to be always heard, always want to be where we want to be and never be alone. If only we learn to understand solitude is not loneliness. Paradoxically we end up feeling just that, alone!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you! The common definition of “technology” seems to be “anything that was invented after the time when I learned the term ‘technology’.” The machine that makes the latte over which you have a face-to-face conversation is technology. So are the lightbulbs that let you have that conversation comfortably at 10pm.

  • Anonymous

    Quote I stole from someone, “Buddhism is evidence that the human struggle against distraction did not begin with Facebook.”

  • Nyles7

    Though I agree with most of what Sherry Turkle argued, I think the much larger picture was missed. The reasons prison’s and jails work is because separation from society is essentially torture. I don’t want to delve into that topic other than to point out that this exemplifies the very real fact that we are a herd animal. Any technology that allows us to maintain more efficient contact with the rest of the herd is going to be embraced by its members. Technology will be more and more integrated into each of us as individuals. Google Glass is yet another step in this direction. What scared us about the Borg in Star Trek’s Next Generation is being embraced by the our next generation(s). Technology and communication will be integrated into our very being, and we will welcome it. It appears that this is our future as a species.
    Please bear with me on this, but eternal life, that is to say the uninterrupted perception that there is continuity of life, will likely arise from this very technology, not from our bodies going on endlessly.
    Sounds ridiculous now, but it won’t in the near future.

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Turkel verbalized much of what I feel. Time and again I notice my friends, work associates, and family members burying themselves in their gadgets, often in the middle of a social interaction. It’s not only symptomatic of an addiction to leisure technology, it’s plain bad manners. Our new portable devices can be very useful, but like everything else, they are abused.

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant. As usual.

  • Ron Shook

    Hmmmm, I went to hear the economist which was fairly worthless and then got scared by Ms. Turkle because I recognized too much of myself in some of her descriptions. And…, I’m an old guy with only a cell phone and computer, no smart phone or pads or other mobile devices. I’ve got to think more about what possible substitutions for better things these social networking type things are causing me. It’s hard to stop or control it, but I can see its certainly not all for the best.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t fault Bill Gates entirely, consumers are suckers (as are voters, but that’s another can of worms). As a computer and management consultant, I encouraged clients upgrade systems based on their NEEDS not merely that something faster or sleeker was suddenly available. Similar problem Doctors now face with patience wanting a Rx based on some pharmaceutical ad.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely, the “graphics” are exceptional.

  • Nyles7

    You are absolutely right. I had written that poorly. Prisons and jails work as torture because they remove individuals from society and families, our herd. They do not work as any sort of rehabilitation, but satisfy the vengeful need of the courts, our government and perhaps victims.
    Te only reason society exists is because we are a herd animal. Society at every level is our herd. We like to think that we share little with animals, but that’s exactly what we are.
    As for Turkle’s thesis that we are losing the conventional art of conversation and social interaction, I think she misses the point that this is yet another evolutionary step in communication and it will inevitably become more “Borg-like”. As with all social change, the older generation will be left behind. longing for the good old days, as the new generations embrace the evolution.

  • Anonymous

    I recently saw a hospital van driver pick up an elderly patient and never make any real substantive connection with the woman because she was talking on her phone. The driver pulled the step stool down for the woman to step into the van, put the step stool up, put up the woman’s walker, got in the van and drove off, all while being engaged in her personal conversation.

  • Anonymous

    Generation M – the microwave radiation-addicted generation.

  • Rob van Nood

    This is a really thoughtful interview which brings to light so many of the challenges of technology and specifically the ubiquitousness of social media in the lives of children. While young people are leaving Facebook in droves and moving toward Instagram and Snapchat, it isn’t so much about the specific tools but rather the way these social tools are deeply embedded in the social fabric of children’s lives. Years ago, when Myspace was still significant, 60 Minutes did a piece on the use of social media in teenage culture. Even back then the “need” to use social media was evident. It is something that many adults don’t quite get. If you aren’t online and being seen in the virtual world, you aren’t been seen. Sherry Turkle states that very clearly.

    What I was hoping would have been addressed was the use of technology beyond the virtual world. Are there ways that technology can support this need for connectivity but bring us back into the physical world? Can these enticing and physically/emotionally addicting tools be reverse engineered in a way that will allow for deeper “real world” connections? OR is the very nature of this technology bringing us further and further down the path of need for constant entertainment?

    As a Technology Coordinator at a k-12 school its my job to bring these conversations to my community in an effort to help forge our own path in this emerging world. I personally focus on using this technology as a way to create and connect, not just consume. So much of what was discussed in this interview was the consumption aspect of social media. In many ways that distractibility and need for constant entertainment was fed by television in my youth. “What else is on? Maybe this tv show will get better. This is boring but I can’t turn it off.” These are all experiences I had when I was a kid that fed many of the same psychological needs that social media feeds for kids of this generation. Its the filling of very human needs and the avoidance of very human fears. How we address those human qualities, and support our children in addressing them, will determine future outcomes. These modern tools just make our human natures stand out more clearly.


    Loved listening to Sherry talk about teens and their social media. I wanted to share. I am a high school youth group leader and every year we take a group of teens on a retreat weekend. They leave their phones at the door and cannot have them until the retreat ends. The amazing fact is that during that retreat we do 12 hours of silence. All the teens agree that one of their things they love about the retreat is that time. They will never experience this feeling unless you put them in this situation. It is wonderful to see what happens to them without it! Mary Lynn

  • Rob van Nood

    That is exactly our jobs as adults. We need to be proactive in supporting the possibilities of solitude. Those kinds of experiences, especially when they have connection to the natural world, are vital in the development of a person’s sense of themselves and their connection to the world.

  • Heidi Preston

    read Edward Bernays book propaganda …the ad at the right says “connect with us”. The captivating “desire” has always been the key to controlling the masses…nothing new. Like anything else moderation is the key. We are social beings and being a Hermit is to be sick…both extremes are “undesirable” for healthy growth of the individual. Tapping into desire (what ever it may be) is nothing but propaganda which influences public opinion and it’s been around for a long time, but now it’s just more expanded through instant gratification.

  • wcs

    Rock and Roll and 21st century technologies are substantially different. A fine rock musician must be focused intently on the music and living in the moment — something we loose both of with much of the technologically driven noise that inhibits focus and depth of enjoyment.

  • Anonymous

    My cell phone is 4 years old, a charge lasts 5 days, and thankfully, doesn’t connect to the internet (actually it WILL but I haven’t ever). I can upgrade with my provider and double my monthly fee. If I do, hmmm, which one would be the smarter phone?

  • Anonymous

    Technology is as it is. Relationships will ways be as they are. Much more difficult than rocket science .

  • Susan Finley

    Profound –

  • Susan Finley

    Now I see parents put a baby laptop in front of their child in a restaurant while they talk with friends – moms on the bus who face the stroller away from them while they scroll through their phone – it’s the PREFERENCE for the device that’s troublesome

  • Rezn8

    I agree. Its to the point where Stephen Colbert & sites like The Onion make satirical comments or side jokes about it. We know it. Its rather obvious and the likelihood that its going to change are slim to none.

  • PRB

    I’m very late joining this discussion but I saw the interview just today. I was riveted by that phrase “sending is being” and had to scroll back again and again. One of the most excellent contemporary takes on the old “the media is the message” thesis. Odd, as I type this in my kitchen on my laptop my partner is in the living room with her iPad and her son is in his room on a multi player online game.