TED Conversations

Linda Hamilton

Director and Developer, www.thanknest.com

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Is it possible for us to use social networking, that which makes us feel so disconnected, to reconnect again?

I recently watched a TedTalk by Professor Sherry Turkle who discussed the ways in which technology is making us feel more and more disconnected. Professor Turkle suggested a way to combat this was through having more real life conversations. But how do we compel people to want to have real life conversations, over the desire to feel connected (or disconnected as it seems) using technology?

What if social networking allowed us to feel truly valued again?

I recently developed a website - http://www.thanknest.com - and since launching I have found that when people are appreciated with a sincere and specific thank you message, this compels them to want to reconnect in real life with the person who is thanking them. They say "let's get together", "let's catch up", and "let's get coffee". When you thank someone and tell them what you like about them, you make them feel good about themselves. People want to have more meaningful bonds with others, and want to spend more real-life time with people who make them feel good, & with people who truly value them.

Is it possible for us to use social networking, that which makes us feel so disconnected, to reconnect again?


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  • Sep 11 2012: I don't think social networks are real networks. At most they are nothing else like the common white pages, just filled with pictures and information you probably never wanted to have about these people. Just that you can "add" someone easily does not make any difference insofar, that people still live their lives mostly besides each other, but not together.

    So most complaints about "people hide behind digital walls and have no real contact" is nonsense, because they never had these contacts, so they can't lose them. What did people do before facebook, who had a pen pal on the other side of the globe? They wrote them a letter, probably phoned them and met each other one time in life during holidays if they had the money (and really wanted to meet in person). They do the same on facebook, but they do not lose something.

    In my opinion, the real contact frequenzy did neither increase nor decrease, as the need for social contact is a fixed number for each individual. Just having a couple of people you "could" meet, does not mean you "want" to meet them, nor that you gonna turn out to be friends. It can happen that you just discover you do not like this person to hang around with, once you met him or her in reallife.

    Most social networks are in the same league like contacts with strangers in a bus, with whom you talk about the weather and never meet again. Does anyone complain about that, that you do not seek contact with people you sit next to in a bus or train?

    The only problem is maybe, that people tend to paint images of the past with brighter colours. If we used to be so socially skilled, how comes that there have been so many wars? And nowadays, were we shall be social zombies, the crime rates go down. This may be just one aspect of it, but i think it needs to be looked at too. The past was not really better or of better quality in social interactions.

    Instead of that, todays technology allows it to stay in contact with loved ones more than ever before!
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      Sep 12 2012: Thank you for sharing Lars, I definitely see your point.

      For the majority of online networks, they are not real networks, they are numbers... but it's for those others that we stay connected. Those people who lift you up, who you lift up, who value you, & you value them make you want to further your online & offline relationship with them - to show them your flaws & know that you will not be judged.

      Yes I agree that you may discover upon meeting an online friend that you do not get along well after all !!And then on the flip side, many true & wholesome relationships have been formed through meeting initially online. I have many friends who have for example, married, or are together with someone they met online (& they are still together after many many years - longer than others who met in real life). They connected online over common ground, and found that their real life selves were as common as their online selves (& both were sincere real people).

      And yes, I have to agree - most contacts are just like chatting with a stranger on a bus!! It is a fleeting discussion in time... or sometimes even being ignored!

      There are definitely negative sides to technology (& places that foster those negatives)... & then there are the positive sides as well (with some places helping to foster those positives).


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