Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Being less alone together

Above, seen on a table at the back of a conference room during a staff all-day negotiation, team-building, and communication workshop.  It is a great enforcement mechanism to enhance interactions and the learning process, imposed by the conference organizer. I think Sherry Turkle would be pleased.

She has said:

What I've found is that our little devices, those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don't only change what we do, they change who we are. Some of the things we do now with our devices are things that, only a few years ago, we would have found odd or disturbing, but they've quickly come to seem familiar, just how we do things.

So just to take some quick examples: People text or do email during corporate board meetings. They text and shop and go on Facebook during classes, during presentations, actually during all meetings. People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you're texting.

Why does this matter? It matters to me because I think we're setting ourselves up for trouble -- trouble certainly in how we relate to each other, but also trouble in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self-reflection.  

So you want to go to that board meeting, but you only want to pay attention to the bits that interest you.


Anonymous said...

This addiction to cell phones is something that baffles me. I have no desire to be connected 24/7 and I prize (and prioritize) my "down time." I'd like to think this attitude makes me more perceptive and aware, but it actually makes me sad and---what's a single word for feeling superior?---condescending? disdainful? contemptuous? of others.

My teenage daughter is connected to her phone; she has anxiety issues. She says using the phone decreases her anxiety, so is that the problem? The phone and its representations of friendship connectedness makes her feel less lonely. Has life has become so anxiety-provoking? Can't we stand to be bored for any amount of time (I'm thinking specifically of the time while waiting at traffic signals. I see all my fellow drivers scanning their phones and texting madly)? Why can't we see that it's that time that allows us to make incredible leaps in thinking and creativity?

I worry, too.

Anonymous said...

Agreed to Anonymous. Same here. I can and do "turn off" the world. Much happier.

akhan13 said...

I felt the same way until I was recently offered an interesting perspective by a younger colleague. Not many years ago, communicating too much via email was considered less productive than picking up the phone or an in-person meeting. The latter methods have their advantages still, but the consensus has shifted towards a much more email-heavy balance for maximizing productivity, with human touch more limited than before (reserved for matters that warrant such level of investment). No doubt there was a time when phone calls seemed impersonal and a face-to-face was a must even for matters that would no longer warrant such means. Ten years from now will the productivity boost from constant connectivity make us seem antiquated in our thinking for disparaging it? Many folks are on Facebook numerous times through the working day because there is less work/home separation- unlike previous generations, they are logged in to work 24/7 through emails, portals, phones etc. Of course there are moments that require our complete attention but I expect again the pendulum will swing further (as digital natives represent a larger chunk of the workforce) to where these occasions are considered fewer and farther between, and maybe for the new generation this is the path to greater productivity and communication. I am saying this as someone who still prefers in-person meetings and phone calls, but recognizes that just as we possess certain skills and communication advantages (on average) that the next generation doesn't, they too possess an array of talents and communication skills that most of us are not as comfortable with. I guess my point is that we often bemoan something being lost or reduced due to the obsession with digital communication and smartphone addiction, when the truth may (not always but in many cases) be that it is simply an inevitable and continuing change of styles and modes, as it has always been.

Paul Levy said...

Maybe, but I think there is also the very simple matter that multi-tasking during a meeting does not improve efficiency. You might feel that you are being s efficient, but in truth, you are not fully engaged with the task at hand in the meeting. It's hard enough to have good communication when people are just talking: How much worse when they are "praying," i.e., putting their heads down every several minutes to read or respond to a message on their electronic device.