Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 6, 2012 8:27 AM

The Other Side Of Our Digital Selves

You need to wrestle (deeply) with what you are about to see.

Since I attended this past year's TED conference, I can't get the dinner conversation I had with Sherry Turkle out of my mind. With each passing day, as I get further and further involved in technology and digital media (especially because I am neck-deep in writing my second book, CTRL ALT DEL), I straddle between marveling at this amazing new world and how it has changed business forever, while at the same time, seeing so many people use technology in a way that is (without question) enslaving them. Turkle is a professor at MIT and the author of the fascinating book, Alone Together - Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. It's the kind of book that I caution new media thinkers about reading, because it can be as depressing as it is enlightening when you begin to deeply think about our lives and our digital selves.

Digital makes life better.

That was always my assumption. Technology is awesome and it's hard not to marvel at the iPhone and the incredible computational power we have in the palm of our hands (and how it connects us all). Turkle suggests another perspective: do we really think that digital will help us lead better lives in our protein forms? Shortly after attending the TED conference and discussing these topics with Turkle (which happened the night before her TED talk), I found myself at a party in Montreal for a new product launch. I got to the event a little early and instead of mingling, I retreated to a couch in the corner and the safety of my iPhone. There was nothing pressing in terms of emails or tweets for me to tend to, but it was much more like a security blanket than anything else. I took warmth in my connectivity to it and how it shielded me from being social in public (something I'm self-admittedly not all that great/comfortable with). At that moment, I realized that the iPhone was a better companion than a human being. That sounds very tragic. That's not me or who I am, but that is how I felt. I'm not sure I would have ever realized or acknowledged those feelings had I not met and spent time with Sherry Turkle. As much as I love technology and new media, it's important to think about the consequences as well.

In this amazing TED Talk, Turkle asks a very important question: "is technology taking us to a place that we do not want to go to?"

By Mitch Joel