Face-to-face conversation is uniquely human. It’s where we learn to listen, to experience “the joy” of being heard and to understand and develop the capacity for empathy, writes Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But technology has changed how we communicate. We’re always connected and rarely interacting face to face. This “flight from conversation” worries Turkle, who has spent 30 years studying the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. “At home, with friends and in the business world, people readily admit that they would rather text, message or send an email than commit to a meeting in person or a phone call,” she writes. “We turn to our phones instead of each other.”
In Reclaiming Conversation, Turkle explores the impact of electronic conversation on families, medical professionals, schoolchildren, workers and others, and she serves up small steps to help readers be more intentional in their use of technology. She advocates ways to promote conversations and encourages parents and bosses to be positive role models. For instance, you shouldn’t text during dinner or during a meeting and then criticize your children or employees when they follow your lead.
The bottom line: Talk may be cheap, but not talking will ultimately cost much more.
By Sherry Turkle
October; Penguin Press; $27.95