In the given research paper, the author aims to take a slightly different perspective on the previously discussed topic of digital technology and its impact on relationships. More specifically, the previous paper addressed the following question: “Is our reliance on digital technology (namely, our phones and social media) impairing our empathy and affecting our relationships, whether family, friend or romantic?” In the paper, the author explained how reliance on digital technology for communication purposes has significantly depleted real-life communication. This particular essay sets out to accomplish a different task. Two of the sources that were used in the prior paper have been selected for this purpose. Particularly, the article by Sherry Turkle called “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk” and another one by Lori Ann Wagner that is called “When Your Smartphone Is Too Smart for Your Own Good: How Social Media Alters Human Relationships”. The author goes over the major points in each of these works, analyzing why these authors would probably disagree. Following this, a solution/response is offered and conclusions are made.
In her article, Turkle explains that social media have robbed people of their intimate relationship experiences. By intimate, one means that which highly relies on personal (live) communication, emotional closeness, and empathy. Turkle illustrates that nowadays, even when people meet at a dinner table, “conversation is kept relatively light, on topics where people feel they can drop in and out”. The author relies on a number of real-life cases which demonstrate how obsessed people have become with technologies. She mentions an example of a 15-year-old girl who went out to dinner with her father who kept on googling facts as they had dinner; based on the girl’s account, it feels like she was hoping for more heart-to-heart, real life communication, without smartphones or Google involved (Turkle). The author points out that the mere presence of a phone on the table as two people interact disconnects them. Hence, technologies create a gap between individuals. Personal connection is robbed of closeness and connection. Furthermore, scientific research shows that the level of empathy among college students has plunged by 40 percent over the past 30 years (Turkle). Basically, when one compares online and offline communication, it all comes down to empathy and emotional closeness.
Next, it is emphasized in Turkle’s article that the effects of technology can be reversed. An experiment demonstrated that when a group of teenagers was left without any access to technologies (such as smartphones and tablets) for five days, their relationships grew closer and more intimate. Another important point is that many people run away from the feeling of loneliness into the world of technology and social media. However, it is through experiences of loneliness that one can meet her true self (Turkle). If an individual has not become comfortable enough with being lonely, experiencing real closeness with another human being is barely possible (Turkle).
In the second part of this paper, the author summarizes some of the key points in Wagner’s article and points to the areas where Turkle and Wagner might disagree. In her study, Wagner explains that, in general, people have become even more social than before; yet, this sociality is different, it is “mediated communication” (116). For this specific point, it is apparent that the two authors would disagree. Mostly, because Turkle clearly states that online interaction robs individuals of real-life communication experiences. Particularly, experiences that involve closeness and empathy. In her research work, Turkle illustrates that communication via technology is algorithmic, while real-life conversation is fluid and contingent, it has personality.
Furthermore, Wagner writes that communication via technology is much easier, since it is not overloaded with information (119). She goes on to assert that numerous insecurities may come up when two people are interacting in real life; this is especially true for romantic encounters/relationships. Wagner portrays the factors of real-life interaction as both positive and negative phenomena. A great number of people do not want to feel vulnerable, so they choose online communication. For this specific point, Turkle would probably disagree, since in her paper she goes to great lengths in order to demonstrate how true communication benefits humans. According to Turkle, the very essence of human nature is expressed in face-to-face interaction. In fact, she states that in a real conversation one does not only learn to listen to another, but also to herself; the individual learns to engage in an inner dialogue, which is equally important.
Another point that should be made is that Wagner portrays real-life human interaction as inevitably filled with fearful emotions: fear of not being accepted, rejected, etc. (119). However, Turkle points to the huge positive outcomes of live interaction, such as empathic involvement, deep connection, and other benefits. Thus, one could say that Turkle looks at the issue from the point of view of a secure connection occurring between two people, while Wagner considers the anxieties which may cause people to opt for mediated communication. In her article, Turkle does not go deep into the shadowy aspects of real-life communication. Positive interaction is established via trust and secure attachment. Yet, people who have trust and attachment issues are more likely to opt for online communication.
One of the major refutation according to Turkle is the effect of not understanding one another despite the associations with media and technology. Although media has allowed to stay connected all the time, the way we are connected has become meaningless. As Turkle put it, we have found ways around conversation, a conversation that is open ended where we can be fully present and reliable. As far as this technology can provide means of communication, at no point will they replace face to face interaction and relationships that are built by spending quality time with one another. Therefore, as far as this issue is understood, there should be balance between technology and real-world interaction.
Upon carefully studying the two authors’ works, one could say that these works are complementary. While Wagner looks at the romantic side of things and the hindrances that may arise, Turkle portrays the topic of relationships from a general viewpoint. As it was mentioned earlier, Wagner explores the fears that may be keeping one from entering a real-life relationship with another person. However, Turkle emphasizes how offline relationships may be beneficial for the individual from a multitude of perspectives. Though the two articles are quite different in terms of the viewpoints that they offer, they are also complementary in nature.
- Turkle, Sherry. “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” The New York Times, 26 Sep. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/opinion/sunday/stop-googling-lets-talk.html.
- Wagner, Lori Ann. “When Your Smartphone Is Too Smart for Your Own Good: How Social Media Alters Human Relationships.” The Journal of Individual Psychology, vol. 71, no. 2, 2015, pp. 114-121.