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Technology doesn't create loneliness, it reveals it. Once revealed, technology can help alleviate isolation and spur connection.

Dr. Turkle urges reflection and analysis and the idea that technology is its infancy. These are two important ideas and I urge others to consider this perspective: that technology fosters connections and developmental growth among the most socially awkward and vulnerable.

A healthy relationship of any sort (e.g., romantic, friendship, family) requires reciprocity. But when these sorts of relationships are out of balance, technology can fill a void. I posit that while technology can lead to isolation, isolation can also lead to connection when a lonely individual reaches out to others or becomes involved in the community via technology.

I'm curious if others view the connection between technology and isolation as one-way or bidirectional or if some other perspective entirely is needed to describe the complex technology-human connection.


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    Apr 4 2012: It is not so much the filling of voids at issue here, but the type or kind of the filling used.

    In one way or another technology functions in the very same way that capitalism does (my intention is not to critique based on ideology here though, but to compare functioning processes). Having said that I would argue that technology attempts to multiply the possible connections between people by effectively reducing the amount of labour and time required to form and maintain them.

    Once upon a time you would have to talk with someone to discover their likes or dislikes and assess the possibility of real connection to them. Now the same can be done without verbal or physical or even reciprocal connection to the other via social networking site profiles (issues with content fidelity and truthfulness also arise). This indeed fills in the void, but it only does so with information, not with feelings or physical communication.

    Also if you note the format of websites, blogs (TED included) and social networking sites everything comes with a cap, a limit. Every message has to be a maximum of characters, every photo has to be of a certain size. This may be based on the physical limits of our current technologies, but it does set limits to communication too.

    Turning to connections per se they do not and for the moment cannot replace the non-verbal communication. The majority of our online world (video-chatting is the only exception) is constructed around bits of textual or graphical information. We send public and private text messages (less is more again prevails) and inform of our decisions, intentions and feelings through text. We tend to forget one thing though...non-verbal communication used to make two thirds of all communication.

    The links between technology and isolation are multi-directional and have just started to be explored. The more we use technology, the more we learn of ourselves and our relationships with others. I for one remain optimistic for the future.

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