Listeners Respond to Sherry Turkle’s Insights on Technology and Living Fully

by Susan Leem, associate producer

(don't) Cry
"(don’t) Cry" (photo: Pedro Klien/Flickr, CC by 2.0)

The fresh ears of our listeners and their own experiences of our show with Sherry Turkle are helpful in absorbing parts of her message that might have slipped by the first time. Following are several we found enlightening and funny:

Rick Silveira of San Diego, California taught me a new phrase:

"As I listened to Turkle’s unedited comments I am reminded of the FOMO factor, the ‘fear of missing out,’ and how social media fills that gap for some."

I can see it being a major force to keep people involved in social media. But what else do you miss out on while trying to quell that fear? I also loved that he was listening to the unedited version of Krista’s interview when this phrase came to mind, trying not to miss a beat!

Our senior editor particularly likes this humor-filled, self-effacing response from Ken Hyatt, a retired chaplain in the U.S. Navy who now lives in Grantsburg, Wisconsin:

"Recently I’ve been catching myself sending emails to my wife while she’s sitting in the same room a mere arm’s length away at another computer. She has expressed valid complaints to this situation: "Just talk to me!” is her plea. This awareness has revealed my own hypocrisy when I rail at others who concentrate on sending text messages while ignoring the person with whom they’re conversing, or having lunch with. …

Finland, the land of my ancestors, has more computers, cell phones, and modern communications technology per capita than anywhere else on the planet. I have a growing conviction that it is the way we Finns deal with our fear of face-to-face communication, and by extension, a certain fear of intimacy. I have come a long way in that regard, but I have a considerable distance yet to go, as a 72-year-old who is still ‘on the way.’”

In another thoughtful reflection, librarian Marcia Jackson of Ashburn, Virginia describes her affluent neighborhood library where parents have continued for years to turn out for storytime in droves, as devoted parents do. But something is keeping them from really being there:

"I look out over the sea of faces and see adults texting, checking email, playing solitaire, etc… The other thing I see, which I find greatly ironic, is the obsession with taking photos of their kids with their smartphones. So, they can’t actually interact with the child yet they feel the need the record the moment and post the photo on their Facebook page or blog. The end result is that the kids are not the same… they aren’t getting the most out of their library experience and they’ve turned into little performers in front of the camera to get their parents’ attention.

As I sat down to clip coupons on Sunday (without any technology at hand incidentally), my own toddler rushed at me and begged me to stop because she knew I’d be out of commission for an hour. Sherry Turkle pushes us to think about what drives our relationship with technology, but, more importantly, reminds us of what we’re trying to protect and preserve — the ability to be more than just physically present, to be alive.

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