Advances in technology have become the basic means of our communication. Relying on smart phones and the Internet, we’re able to text, tweet and email continuously throughout the day. In many ways, we’re communicating more than we ever have in the past. But this constant connection can lead to a deep solitude.
MIT professor Sherry Turkle argues in her new book, Alone Together, that as technology moves relentlessly forward, our emotional ties move backward, causing us to fall victim to the illusion of companionship. Her book describes changing and unsettling relationships between families, friends and lovers.
Turkle and other experts contend that the types of communication made possible by current technology have come at the expense of real, person-to-person conversations. We’re in constant touch more than ever before, but the connections aren’t as deep as face-to-face conversations. Electronic interactions are usually shorter than spoken conversations, and body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice are missing in texts and emails.
Many experts have pointed out that relying on electronic devices to communicate can have negative effects on social and emotional skills, making it harder to sustain healthy personal relationships. Face-to-face conversations teach skills that are crucial for our overall well being. Real-life conversations can turn around difficult and challenging circumstances with just a few kind words.
How can we ensure that we don’t lose the art of conversation? It’s not to be anti-technology. Rather, it’s simply time to put technology in its proper place and reinvigorate conversation.
In our book, Conflict―The Unexpected Gift, we urge people to make it a daily self-awareness practice to set aside time to share face-to-face conversations with friends and family. In those conversations, try doing the following:
- Identify another person’s comments that might come across as objectionable to you and observe how you reacted to that person.
- Bring to mind emotions you may be experiencing in relation to the person and be aware that those emotions are your own; the other person did not cause them.
- Notice that it is your assumptions about the other person that are triggering your emotions.
- Acknowledge the reactive words you may have spoken to the person as a result of the assumptions you made about them, and apologize for having said them.
Remember that maintaining a healthy balance between electronic and face-to-face interactions will enable you to be a more sensitive and compassionate communicator in all areas of your life.