“I Share, Therefore I Am”: What is the quality of my connection to others?

The iPhone in my pocket chimes at me. The sound makes me happy as I almost physically feel a squirt of dopamine in my brain. I wonder who made a comment and to what thread. Those push notifications — Facebook this time — give me an immediate feeling of connected goodness. But how connected am I really? What are the quality of those connections?

I spend a lot of time being excited about the opportunities in my digitally-augmented, social-networked, always-on life. I also spend time — less of it — considering the down side and the risks of hurtling along with everyone else on this collective Information Age train ride. Yes, there are down sides, and, yes, there are plenty of risks. Being a father, maybe I’m more acutely aware of the risks that I would have been before having had children.

I’ve been letting the NPR TED Radio Hour feed me a regular sampling of TED Talks. Guy Raz and crew do a great job of tying together some great talks by related topics. They turned me on to “Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?” After listening to part of her talk, I went to TED.com to hear the rest, and I’ve embedded the talk below.

The Internet Age is shaking up modern culture. It’s challenging long accepted behaviors and values. It’s connecting us in ways and in qualities of connection that are brand new. It’s also disconnecting us. Sherry Turkle presents a sobering look at those connections and how they are changing. She looks at our role in that change, both active and passive.

“I share, therefore, I am” Turkle says in her talk. We choose our words more carefully when we write. We have opportunities to edit ourselves more so than when we are in a face-to-face conversation with another person. We have much more control in our digital lives, but what is the cost of that control? How does it affect our real interpersonal lives?

I’ve gotten aboard this train along with the rest of the crowd. Sure, I was jostled through the doors along with the rest of the throng, but it was a choice. So, I want to at least try to more clearly understand where I’m headed … as I hurtle towards whatever that is.

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