Saturday, 7 April 2012

Chatter Matter book review: Alone Together

Hi all!

Just finished a great book called "Alone Together, Why we expect more from technology and less from each other" by Sherry Turkle.

I was inspired to read the book after hearing Sherry talk at the LSE and this week when I finished reading it, Sherry also appeared on my TED podcast! (see below for links to these two talks). So felt these "Sherry reminders" were a definite sign that I should write something about her book.

The book is divided into two parts, the first about robots and second about the internet. I enjoyed the second part more (and that's what I focus on below) as I am not quite from the Furby/Tamagotchi generation. Do you remember those annoying things? I once had a client at work give me a Tamagotchi to look after for his daughter, needless to say the poor thing didn't stand a chance in my care! And I am more fascinated by the way tools such as Facebook, IM etc are changing the way we communicate.

Favourite key messages

  • Young people feel face to face conversations in real time are too revealing and risky and make them feel vulnerable so texting is easier.
  • Keeping up your on line profile can be like a performance of the desired self and this can proved exhausting and as well as problematic.
  • We use to feel then need to communicate, now we communicate to feel..I text, therefore I am.
  • Technology has filled the void for children where families are absent.

Favourite quotes

  • "...we really didn't need to keep computers busy. They keep us busy. It is as though, we have become their killer app."
  • "We strive to be a self that can keep up with its e-mail."
  • "A call has insufficient boundaries."
  • "You have to give to Facebook to get from Facebook."
  • "We come to experience the column of unopened messages in our inboxes as a burden. Then, we project our feelings and worry that our messages are a burden to others."


Sherry's main conclusion is that just because we grew up with the internet, it doesn't mean it's grown up. We can take back control of our lives and create spaces for real conversation and intimacy. 
As Sherry writes " We deserve better. When we remind ourselves that it is we who decide how to keep technology busy, we shall have better."

I really enjoyed reading this book although at times it told a very sad and scary story of kids growing up being afraid of proper conversations, craving attention from their parents who are too busy to look up from their blackberries to notice them.  It's certainly an extremely poignant and well timed book and I certainly agree with Sherry when she says that we need to get back to feeling comfortable with solitude and it doesn't equate to being lonely. In fact Sherry says in the book that loneliness is failed solitude.

And so here are the links to Sherry's LSE talk, which inspired me to read her book in the first place...

And here is her TED talk released this week which inspired me to write this blog....

Happy Easter all!

Till next time

Take care