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Is Technology Making Us Anti-Social?

A Family Connected...By Phone?I have 836 Facebook friends and yet I can often go an entire day without talking to any of them. But even though we’re not meeting f2f or talking on the phone, we are connecting–either by text or through Facebook posts.

If they follow me on Twitter, they know that I tried watching “Little Shop of Horrors” with my kids only to quickly realize that it was totally inappropriate for them. If they are reading my Facebook posts, they’ll see that I recently wrote an article for Adweek. I texted a couple of friends over the weekend to touch base, but those interactions were brief. These texts and posts are curated bits of my life I choose to share with the world. But they don’t substitute for conversation.

In an Op-Ed article in the Sunday New York Times, Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T. and the author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” notes how technology–in the form of social media and smartphones– are killing the art of conversation. Yes, texting and e-mail and posting keep us connected to the world, she writes. “But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.”

Like many busy parents, I find myself clutching to my smartphone like a security blanket throughout my day. If I have a thought I want to share, rather than calling a friend, I will tweet about it. And if I am bored, I turn to my smartphone for instant entertainment and gratification.

While headed to Manhattan on the subway with my daughters on Friday, my 10-year-old daughter mentioned, “Before you got an iPhone, you always said you’d never been one of those people who is constantly texting and looking at her phone and now you’ve become that.” I told her she was right. I need to remember to put the phone down and be present with those around me. Is it really so important for me to follow conversations on Twitter and Facebook when I can be engaging in real conversations with friends and family? Sure, social media lets us stay connected, but it’s a superficial and fleeting connection that is ultimately, unsatisfying.

As Turkle writes:

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

My wise daughter also pointed around us on the subway and noted that everyone was plugged in to their phones, listening to music, playing games, or writing e-mails. I miss the days when people would have time to daydream and maybe even talk to each other on the subway.

Do you think the internet is making you less social? Do you have to remind yourself to put down your phone and look around?

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Photo: Blended Family of Five Talking on Cell Phone/Shutterstock.com

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