Those of you who have frequented this blog before should be familiar with the name Sherry Turkle. She is a clinical psychologist and MIT professor. She is also one of the premiere voices in the discussion of technology’s affect on communication and relationships. Last weekend, the New York Times published her essay, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk”. This informative essay, like her game-changing book Alone Together, speaks to our tendency to use technology as a means of satisfying our desire to feel close to others, without actually providing genuine relationship.
A recurring theme that occurs in this essay is the difference in perception within the families Turkle interviewed during her research. The parents interviewed were worried about their children spending too much time on their devices. They were concerned their children will grow up without the skills needed to hold face-to-face conversations, interpret non-verbal cues, as well as express empathy. Their children however, complained that they had to repeatedly ask for the undivided attention of their technology-distracted parents. Turkle’s work seems to say that all of us are riding a tech-fueled wave that is pushing us toward our devices and away from each other.
Sherry Turkle remains one of, if not the leading voice, on the impact of technology on human relationships. Her work should be required reading for every Christian – both layperson and leader.
Because as Christians, we can’t love other people as God commands if we create barriers to relationship. Or worse yet, we can’t love people if we create pseudo-relationships, with controlled closeness and limited vulnerability. But, as Sherry Turkle points out, much of our current use of technology is doing just that. We all must begin reclaiming face-to-face conversation and solitude in order to preserve true relationships. I would add that Christians must also reconsider what technology is for – and how it can best be used to fulfill our God-given purpose.
The New York Times essay discussed in this post is adapted from Sherry Turkle’s forthcoming book – Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. So as soon as you’re finished reading this, pick-up a copy.