TED Conversations

Heather Taylor

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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 5 2012: I worry most for the kids who have never known anything else than cell phone and internet living, those who have never had a proper conversation, as Dr Turkle describes. We don't gain social skills magically, we have to be taught. We have to have face to face, real time attention and interaction with loving parents to develop a solid sense of self, boundaries, self respect and self esteem. If kids are brought up on videos, gaming and social networking we are sending us all into a very dark world indeed were personal resilience, empathy and deep societal understanding will be in perilously short supply. What we need is closer, stronger bonds, not more terror and withdrawal from the messy realities of living with each other. Terror is what drives suicide, illness, gangsterism, drug use and all the other symptoms of personal and social breakdown.
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      Apr 5 2012: I agree Anna. I am 60 and raised 5 children. The mother of my children used media as a baby sitter. One day, on NPR radio, A psychologist said " If you would not let two strangers come in to you house and make out on your couch, why would you allow it on your TV." So I did an experiment. I turned the TV around and against the wall. My small children ages 4 to 10 began to play with each on without fighting. They were not aggressive with each other. Well, after a week their mother went back to her style and the children went back to their old aggressive ways. I had a chance to repeat the experiment one more time, with the same results.
    • Apr 7 2012: I agree too Anna. The talk mentions technology isolating people from each other and creating loneliness. One thing no one has yet mentioned here, and which has concerned me for some time, is that it is not just about the isolation. It is about the way we treat each other as human beings. As someone who works in a job where I communicate with the public on a day to day basis, it has become hard to ignore the way some people treat others. It is the people who have minimal social skills (lack of empathy, boundaries) who seem to be unable to treat another person in a respectful and pleasant way - they are interacting with another human being, not a piece of equipment. They don't even realise how they come across.
      I think it has definately become worse the more we use technology but like others have said here it is about making an effort to connect. Really connect, with human contact, not just Twitter or Facebook.
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        Apr 9 2012: Wendy,15 years ago or so, I listened to a psychologist on NPR radio tell this comparison. The statistics are not accurate but close. During the Civill War only 5% of the soldiers actuarially did the killing. Most shot into the air or ground. The battle of Gettysburg they military found 50,000 muskets double loaded. Meaning they were never shot and to make it like the gun was shot by the soldier, he would load it again. World War I, only 10% of the soldiers shot to kill. After WW ll the kill rate only went up to 17%. The military realized that it is not in human nature to kill another person. So Vietnam soldiers were desensitized to the natural human mechanism of preservation. Of the men in combat 98% did the killing. That's why the higher rate of post traumatic war-symptom. The same psychologist stated that todays video games do over 100 time what the military does. And those were games 15 years ago.
        • Apr 11 2012: It would explan a lot of road rage as well. The angry person in one car doesn't seem to realise that the person in the other car is a father, brother, sister, lover, mother who has their own life going on. Who is late for work, who is worried about their mortgage, who is expecting their sister to deliver a baby that day. That is - a person.
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        Apr 11 2012: Wendy, when someone cuts me off or I have to make evasive action to prevent an accident, I just bless them and put a check mark of forgiveness in my column for when I screw up.
        • Apr 11 2012: Ha ha. Sounds like a good plan. I believe in karma. What goes around comes around.
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      Apr 8 2012: Anna, I would add one more thought to your thread. It is also a question of time. There are only 24 hours in the day and if we spend much of our free time in virtual realities there is little time left to explore the real world and the real people around us including family and friends. It also pretty much precludes the experience of doing things together, like building stuff or making stuff or exploring for stuff. Even community learning has been replaced by simply "googeling it" as it were. We love technology and we love TED but we find ourselves having to place strict limits on our on line time to allow for the other, real, local, experiences of life.

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