We can have what Turkle terms a “big gulp of real conversation” — through a chat window that keeps us connected, all day, to a best friend on the other side of the country. We can embrace the value of solitude and self-reflection, writing a blog post that digs deeply into a personal challenge — perhaps choosing to write anonymously in order to share a deeper level of self-revelation than we’d brave offline. We can truly listen, and truly be heard, because online affinity groups help us find or rediscover friends who are prepared to meet us as we really are.
These are the tools, practices, and communities that can make online life not a flight from conversation, but a flight to it. But we will not realize these opportunities as long as we cling to a nostalgia for conversation as we remember it, describe the emergence of digital culture in generational terms, or absolve ourselves of responsibility for creating an online world in which meaningful connection is the norm rather than the exception. We are making that digital shift together — old and young, geeky and trepidatious — and we are only as alone as we choose to be.
Own It: Social Media Isn’t Just Something Other People Do – Alexandra Samuel – Technology – The Atlantic. The Turkle essay needs a critique, but the rousing peroration here makes me cringe. “We are only as alone as we choose to be”? Do we really want to blame lonely people for their loneliness? “Hey, you’re choosing to be alone, so quit whining.” Do we really want to say to people suffering from isolation, “Just get online and make some anonymous comments on websites and you’ll be fine”? I love many of my online connections, but the idea that online experience is the cure-all for loneliness is disastrously wrong, and the lack of compassion in this essay is really troubling.