I just started reading Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. http://www.reclaimingconversationbook.com/
Turkle is an acclaimed author and professor at MIT, and she has done a ton of research on how our current mania for being digitally connected is impeding our ability to actually have conversations with real people. The cost of our texting is real, Turkle says, and a whole generation of people is growing up more comfortable with their phones than looking other people in the eye.
“I’d rather not talk to a person.”
“It’s so much easier to text.”
“I hate being on the phone.”
I hear comments like this a lot, and have definitely made some of them myself. But what this research is suggesting is that we are forgetting how to have in-person conversations, the ones that matter, because we are outsourcing even routine talking to our apps and our devices. We no longer have to call to order food, or talk to a grocery store check-out person. We are systematically reducing the opportunities for a serendipitous conversation, the chance to talk to someone we don’t know.
What would happen if we left our phones in our pockets while we’re in line at the drugstore? Who might we see? What might we observe? Maybe nothing, maybe…something.