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Will Newtown shooting help us all reconnect?

The Newtown shooting highlights our growing disconnect because of technology and the chance to come back together, a noted researcher tells Seattle's Morning News (AP image)

Of all the stories to come from the tragic Newtown, Conn. school shooting, one in particular stood out for Sherry Turkle. The MIT professor and author said she was moved by an interview with a victim’s neighbor as he stood silent vigil outside their home. He admitted he’d never met them even though they lived just a few hundred feet away.

It resonated with Turkle because her recent book
“Alone Together” focuses on the ways humans interact with technology, and our growing disconnection from real human connection and relationships.

“I think the lesson that we all are taking away is that we’d rather text than talk. We’re hiding in plain site we’re losing a sense of our physical community because we’re disappearing into our phones,” Turkle said in an interview Friday with Seattle’s Morning News.

Turkle insisted she’s not anti-technology, but argued our increasing dependence on texting, Facebook and other virtual communications are killing our ability to communicate honestly and connect emotionally.

The researcher pointed to a father she interviewed, whose son tries to use texts to avoid uncomfortable conversations like canceling dinner with his grandmother.

“You have to confront that you disappointed someone. You have to confront the real human person with their real human emotions. That’s kind of what I’m arguing. That’s the sort of thing we’re finding a way to sidestep and that’s not good because that’s what life’s about,” Turkle said.

We might have hundreds of Facebook friends, but Turkle argued it’s not the same thing. The Internet makes it too easy to craft a persona and present ourselves in an edited way rather than the truth, warts and all. She calls it the Goldilocks effect. We can have every interaction just right.

“When I say to people ‘what’s wrong with having a conversation’ they say ‘it takes place in real time and can’t control how it’s going to turn out,'” she said.

It’s not just young people. Turkle’s research finds the growing disconnect spans all generations and walks of life.

She insists she’s not a Luddite. Turkle said she just wants people to re-evaluate their use of technology and look at renewing true human connections. She thinks overwhelming events like the Newtown shooting prompt us to do just that.

“I’m arguing for a kind of look again at what we want from each other and what kinds of conversations we need to have,” she said. “We have each other, we can begin the conversation and I think that it’s kind of time because we all have the sense that after 10 years of this that in our families and our jobs and our communities we’ve overstepped and I think it’s time to step back and begin the conversation.”

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