Monday, April 23, 2012

"U" is for Utopia. With No Cell Phones? (4.23.2012)

I don't buy it, I tell you. I just don't buy it. A story in The Sunday New York Times Opinion pages, written by a psychologist and professor at M.I.T., Sherry Turkle, opines that "we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection".
We are tempted to think that our little "sips" of online conversation add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don't. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places -- in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

So here's what I'm not buying: I don't buy that cell phones, iPads and all the apps that run on them are the new bogeyman of our generation. I don't agree that technology is creating a generation of kids and adults who have lost the ability to have conversations in person because they are so busy texting. 
I just don't buy it. A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I'd like to learn how to have a conversation."
Really? Now if this young man had autism (like my son does) that would make sense and it would be a skill on his IEP to build toward. But seriously. Is this really supposed to be the next big fear for our kids? That they text so much they will lack the ability to hold conversations? 

Frankly, I don't think most 16 year-olds are very chatty anyway, especially with their parents. And if I were to I suddenly lose my ability to chatter and hold conversations I know some people --men especially--would probably like me better. 

So all that being said, I don't disagree with everything.  Here are the things I agree with:
  • Human relationships are rich; they're messy and demanding. 
Yup. Got it. 
  • Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, "I am thinking about you." Or even for saying, "I love  you."                                                     
Maybe we can program a cell phone to send such messages at intervals? Men would buy this app. We could do a B.F. Skinner variable reinforcement version and call it, "I love you sometimes." It could be killer.
  • In conversation we tend to one another...We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another's point of view.                               
True. But what about those who are far away? Agree, a conversation would be best. But sometimes a phone call, email or IM gives us a chance to express important feelings when we can't be there in person. And if someone IMs or emails at you instead of with you, you know its time to text: "CRACKLE, CRACKLE...Oh sry u r breakg up...we'd better talk in person." 
  • To make room for [conversation] I see some first deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars "device-free zones." We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children.
Totally agree with this. And this recognizes that there is value in communication as long as it's just that: a back and forth experience that builds a relationship and not just "sides". One other thing: I think we can create sacred "cell-free" spaces in the workplace. Like the bathroom. 
So what do you think? Would love to get a few spirited, spunky, sassy comments going. Oh, but whatever you do, don't call me at home. 
----------------------------------------------------
Link to The Times story:
The Flight From Conversation


CAUTION: 
Texting 
While Walking 
Can Be Dangerous 
To Your Survival

Check out the survival tips 
in the short, funny, 
video link below:

100000001269189/texting-while-walking.html


----------------------------------------------------


Author's Note: In the month of April, I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. The idea is to blog about something every day, starting with the first letter in the alphabet ("A") and continuing through all 26 letters (to "Z"). (We get Sundays off for good behavior.) In order to make this fun and challenging, I've decided to theme my A to Z blogging. Here's the plan: since I love reading The New York Times, and since I always find no shortage of frightfully interesting stories, I am going to center my blog on the stories I find in The Times. One thing I promise: an A to Z ride through The Times as diverse as the Gray Lady herself. Hang on for some fun. Or as Kevin said in Home Alone (one of my favorite lines), "I think I'll give it a whirl..."

23 comments:

  1. I love how you dissected and addressed certain parts of her article.

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    1. Thank you my love! "And I really mean that and I'm not trying to avoid a conversation with you." lol :-)

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    2. When it comes to people texting their children to tell them supper is ready and then said children descend from their bedrooms with their cell phones in hand, I think there is definitely a problem with today's generation.

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    3. I think I might be guilt of this. A little. Do I get extra credit because I live in a 3-story townhome? :-) Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I think youngsters text too much, the way I talked too much on the phone. I didn't lose my ability to detect visual, unspoken communication for that! There's people who is always ready to sound the alarm at the latest trend that will undermine us as a society. Teens are a reclusive kind that talk in code and only amongst their inner sanctum. That's what they are. If as a family we take steps to build spaces for connection and communication, then it'll be just a phase they'll get over with not a moment too soon. I still think the best thing about being a teenager is that we grow older.

    Nice post.
    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

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    1. Agree -- I remember having that phone attached to my ear at around 12 years old. One day a friend wanted to call me after school and I thought it was such a novel idea. I think I was on the phone for the next five years solid. (And now I am NOT a phone-talker at all.) But look at us both: we ended up being writers! We must have done something right...:-) Thanks for visiting!

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  3. hi denine.. thanks for stopping by my post... glad i could be an inspiration. :D

    nice, thought-provoking post...
    i see no problems with all the gadgets and kids.. kids have a need to interact, face to face.. and via 'whatever the can get there hands on'..... it's simply socializing on a different level.. (

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    1. Hi - You really were! I have plans, I have plans -- I just have to get through "W", "X", "Y" and "Z". lol.

      Thanks for stopping by yourself!

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  4. I think just so we (kids and the rest of us) remember that a live person in the room always trumps an electronic gadget, we're all good. This also applies to electronics that have been around for quite a while--like televisions. ;O)

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    1. Love that, Jo. It's a simple rule, but it works..! Thanks for the comment!

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  5. I fail to see a lack of conversation in our family even if cell phones are buzzing and tingling and playing music. We still find time to actually talk. I love texting, it doesn't require that I stop doing whatever and just talk. I can communicate at my leisure and so can the person on the other end. It works for me.
    Dinner is a no electronic zone for me. I will concede to the TV if my roomy wants to check the news, but not often.

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    1. LOL. Me too. I was a texting early-adopter for my age group, but I had a very good friend who was much younger, and gay and he taught me the texting ropes. I am pretty dependent on it now...:-)

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  6. I am a writer, I write. I despise texting, the buttons are too small. grinZ I think there are issues in communication that could be made more evident from technology... like... focus... wait for it... the distraction factor that people have when they are conversing in many situations, but I think it is short sited to blame technology for a lack of conversation.

    BTW... what are we doing now? We are conversing... could continue to converse... right here... in this typed out space on a blog. It's still conversation. Someone talks... someone listens... someone responds.

    Great post... even tired (which is evident by the use of ellipses so frequently) I enjoyed this... conversation ;-)

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    1. Hey thanks! I agree: what are we doing? We are communicating. It's just a different form. We can escalate to "live spoken word" at any point. Maybe we're creating a communication food chain, because it's certainly true that some subjects are trickier to tackle online...
      Thanks for the visit!

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  7. People were afraid of the telephone when it first became popular, too, then discovered it beat the hell out of hitching up the horse in the middle of the night to fetch the doctor. And answering machines were of the devil, so to speak, then lo and behold, those were kinda convenient, too.

    I think texting may be a phase, or it may be here to stay, but either way, it'll shake down. I'm not afraid it will be The End of Civilization as We Know It. Although I'm not actually a texter, myself, and sometimes I am annoyed with people texting me and getting annoyed because I don't respond, though I have TOLD them I don't text.

    Happy to find you blog, I will probably use Networked Blogs to Follow you.

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    1. You bring back a strong memory of my little Italian grandmother trying to leave me a message on my answering machine back in the 80's. She sounded so afraid of it, like if she left a complete message it would capture her SOUL or something! The truth is that I thought the author sounded a little out-of-touch, which is different from disagreeing with her...Thanks for visiting and I PROMISE not to text you...:-)

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  8. You had me at Skinner's variable schedule of reinforcement :)

    And I disagree with her as well, I don't buy that connection and conversation are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, I believe that one facilitates the other. But what do I know? I'm just an applied behavior analyst (who tweets, texts, blogs, facebooks, and pinterests on a daily basis, and still has fulfilling real and digital relationships), not a professor of social studies and technology...

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    1. OMG Megan - I actually know exactly what that is considering that I did ABA with my son for several years! Cool! I'm in the same boat: I don't have a line of letters after my name, but I know what I know.

      PS-The truth is that I learned about variable reinforcement from ABA! Nice that is works in other places lol. Thanks for commenting!

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    2. This is such a coincidence because my Master's specialization was in autism. I know exactly what you went (and probably are still going) through with your son. And I'm in awe of parents who, like you, had to educate themselves quickly to help and advocate for their kids.

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    3. Well the truth is, parents like me need educators like you when we are too "close" to what's going on (and need help!) Luckily, my son is 22 now and he is a true success story (said The Proud Mom). At this point, I probably need the ABA more than he does! LOL.

      Glad we connected!
      Denine

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  9. I have her book if you want to read it!

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  10. I bet you got an "A" on this. Am I right? :-)

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