Hear that sound?
It’s the whir of microcircuits in your PC.
Okay, I’m pulling our leg. Microcircuits are silent. Like the digital revolution.
Think about it. Think of everything that’s silently slipping away over the last two decades: Landline phones, wristwatches, road maps. Handwritten letters, glossy magazines, books. Phone operators, toll takers, bank tellers.
Our blind faith in technology’s salvific power
We embrace technology with few qualms. Why question something that makes life faster, easier, better? Technology gives us instant knowledge. Portable entertainment. Democratized education. Improved productivity. Fewer dead trees. More Linchpins.
And don’t get me started on the social benefits: Digital media connects us immediately and intimately. It gives everyone a voice and a publishing platform. It lets us relate to each other in deeper, more meaningful, more creative ways.
Machines do a bang-up job of humanizing us.
Something is going amiss in digital paradise
So why does Dr. Sherry Terkle insist that “something is going amiss” with social media? In a recent video interview, Dr. Terkle, Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, discussed our digital dependency. She believes it’s time to reassess social media’s centrality in our lives.
Take a look at my crib notes of her interview, below, and then pop over to Simon Mainwaring’s website to watch the video. I promise, the interview is worth 9 minutes of your time.
Signs that you’re going amiss with social media
Along with Dr. Terkle, you likely agree “something is going amiss” when you meet friends for dinner and never get to chat: you’re interrupted constantly as people break away to scan, text, take calls and post Instagrams.
Something is going amiss when you walk a beautiful shoreline and can’t nod to fellow beachcombers: their faces are glued to handheld devices, indifferent to you—and the glorious sand, sea and sky.
Something is going amiss when you start avoiding phone calls, preferring to email and text even your closest friends.
The price of staying plugged in
Constant connectivity, asserts Dr. Terkle, is taking a psychic toll. Staying ceaselessly plugged in makes us…
Intolerant of solitude. Compulsively connected people often feel compelled to share events online even before they’ve finished experiencing them in the moment. “I share, therefore I am,” quips Dr. Terkle.
Emotionally empty. Constant connectivity changes our emotional makeup: rather than having a feeling and wanting to text or tweet, we want to have a feeling and need to text or tweet, hoping to feel the emotional connection.
Unable to collaborate. True collaboration, observes Dr. Terkle, requires a strong sense of self. Original ideas aren’t generated by a hive mind.
Weak leaders. “Leading is not the same as polling,” asserts Dr. Terkle.
Social media presence: “Authenticity” or performance art?
Social media experts have long told us that social platforms help us to reveal our authentic selves.
Dr. Terkle doesn’t buy it. “On the network, we can fake it,” she says. Through carefully edited updates, selected photos and other content, we present a polished and positioned persona. “We perform ourselves on social media,” says Dr. Terkle, instead of “being ourselves.”
What about your social media use?
What do you think? Are you comfortable with your social media use? Or do you feel “something is going amiss?”