TED Conversations

Lisa Cook

President and Founder, Plan B Connections

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How do you build offline meaningful social connections?

There are many life transitions which trigger the necessity to make new friends- a geographic move, retirement, new job, divorce, etc. How does one establish meaningful friendships - relationships where you both are able to talk about what's really happening in your life rather than Facebook-type status updates?

The US and other nations are seeing an increase in the numbers of people living alone and studies are showing increased loneliness in society as a whole- it affects people regardless of age and marital status. For all those seeking meaningful social connections and stronger social ties, this is an important question. I think building social capital is very important. What is the glue that makes for meaningful social connections?


Closing Statement from Lisa Cook

I was fortunate to have the chance to share my story at TEDxMahtomedi!

Hope you'll watch my talk and share your ideas on making meaningful connections. Let's keep the conversation going!


Lisa Cook

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  • Mar 4 2013: Everyone is always saying how teens these days don't know how to have meaningful relationships or even conversations because they are always stuck behind a screen. I think this is a very pessimistic and narrow-minded view that ignores the meaning online social connections can add. Yes, teens need more practice face to face, as these sorts of interactions aren't going away. However, as the world is evolving, relationships are too, and this isn't necessarily for the worse. With facebook, we can stay connected with friends, sustaining lasting relationships, as long as we use these social networks responsibly and sparingly. We can even make connections like these, discussing ideas on Ted.com that are beginning to shape the world! Do you believe that this may be a new era of relationships and social connections, or that social networking is a fad that is a detriment to face to face conversation?
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      Mar 4 2013: Have you watch this talk by Sherry Turkle?
      Turkle has researched the matter and provides more than an unsupported opinion. Perhaps you can reply more specifically to Turkle's concerns.
      • Mar 4 2013: Turkle argues that the reason we are afraid of conversation is that it is uncontrollable. With texting, emailing, and the like, we are able to edit what we say so that we can present our best possible self. We are always seeking more control in our lives and in our world, but when does this control backfire? It seems it has with the teenage boy who texts all the time but earnestly wants to learn how to have a conversation.
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          Mar 4 2013: Your assertion is that Increased connectedness equates to an evolved form of relationship, while Turkle's well argued postion is that we are connected, via technology, but alone. The trend toward being alone, and indeed lonely is well documented.
          Findings that " Parents text and do email at breakfast and at dinner while their children complain about not having their parents' full attention. But then these same children deny each other their full attention." does not support the position that "the world is evolving, relationships are too, and this isn't necessarily for the worse."
          Turkle says, "We expect more from technology and less from each other." and then asks, "Why has it come to this?" for which the only answer is that technology is addictive and we merely justify the addiction and filter our lives through it.
          Again Turkle says, "I believe it's because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We're lonely, but we're afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we're designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we're not so comfortable. We are not so much in control."

          "How do you build offline meaningful social connections?" is the question Turkle is also asking. We shouldn't abandon technology, but need to be thinking about whether we are using it in the best ways.
          "Human relationships are rich and they're messy and they're demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves."

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