Teen-on-phoneFacebook. Twitter. Second Life. “Smart” Phones. Robotic Pets. Robotic Lovers.

What don’t we use computers for?

Sherry Turkle, the director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self, describes in her book Alone Together a population more at ease with technologies than with one another. She has spent 15 years exploring our lives on the digital terrain and she interviewed hundreds of children and adults.

Go to www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle to watch Sherry Turkle’s March 2012 TED talk … Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other.

We Need To Talk

ThreeTeens310Constant connection doesn’t mean real communication. Turkle’s new book praises the virtue of slow, meandering, face-to-face interaction. In Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, relationships are described as starting to slip into what researchers call an “absent presence.”

The author spent five years interviewing families, students, academics and employees and what became clear to her is that our love affair with screen time is getting us into serious interpersonal trouble. We need to put technology in its place.

The dodging of face time is creating a deep empathy gap: As we keep a firmer grip over our exchanges and our time, we reveal less of ourselves and attend less to one another.

Turkle recommends creating “sacred spaces” – declaring kitchens, dining tables, and cars screen-free zones. Weekly tech sabbaticals, device-free summer camps and retreats for “tech detoxing” are suggested. There is a need to change consumption practices.

“Technology makes us forget what we know about life,” says Turkle. “We’re at a moment in the culture where we are reminding ourselves of where we are.”