Technology has allowed us to connect with just about anyone, from a colleague at work to an old school friend. No doubt that the internet has brought the world closer together, making us feel connected, but one has to wonder are we really connected? Can we distinguish between meaningful relationships and casual connections? Or have all our relationships been reduced to trivial connections, that we have begun to redefine as intimacy?
In her book “Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other”, Sherry Turkle discusses the Goldilocks Effect: “Not too close. Not too far. Just right.” Simply put, we want to be connected, but don’t want to have real conversations.
“Texting offers just the right amount of access, just the right amount of control. She is a modern Goldilocks: for her, texting puts people not too close, not too far, but at just the right distance. The world is now full of modern Goldilockses, people who take comfort in being in touch with a lot of people whom they also keep at bay.” — Sherry Turkle
Technology has programmed us to only participate in conversations that we can control. We want to listen only to things that are useful to us and we are obsessed with presenting ourselves as we want to be: deleted, edited and improved. And when we retouch our relationships using technology, we begin to abandon real, meaningful relationships for mere connections.
“I share, therefore I am.” — Sherry Turkle
We use the internet for a range of activities from socializing to shopping. While some of these actions may have little impact on our daily lives, others are strongly linked to our emotions. The promise of technology to always be heard and never be alone and the immediacy of social media has redefined the way we share our thoughts and feelings. The need to be heard pushes us to make more connections without attachments, and in the process, isolating ourselves from the real world. In our quest to customize our lives and the way we view ourselves, we lose meaningful interactions, true relationships and slowly abandon ourselves in the process.
Is there still hope?
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” — Brené Brown
How do we stop ourselves from believing that always being connected will make us feel less alone? The first step is to understand and accept solitude, and use it to discover ourselves and begin to form real relationships. Positive human connections have a strong impact on both mental and physical health. Building a rich social capital is associated with personal and professional success, happiness, satisfaction and longer life spans. We need to start creating spaces at home, at school and at work to instigate conversation. We need to start listening to each other, empathize and provide support that goes beyond a “like” or a “share”.
While technology is redefining human interaction, it is also offering us the chance to assert our values and decide our direction. Like any other human innovation, digital technology is what we make of it. As much as the excessive use of technology can destroy meaningful interactions, it also has the potential to create new relationships, enhance conversations and help us grow together. We only need to pause and listen.