Connected, but alone

3rd April 2013

Growing up, we had two rules around the dinner table: 1. you must at least try everything on your plate and 2. you had to share one story about the favorite part of your day.

In a family of six, my parents had their hands full with sporting events, friends and homework, therefore making spending time around the dinner table no easy task. However, it was rare that there was a night that went by that we didn’t eat as a family, even if that meant eating in shifts from time to time.

We didn’t have smart phones, personal laptops, iPads and email to interrupt our family time. To say the landscape has changed is an understatement. However, dinner at the Dennihy house hasn’t changed one bit. Sure, the phones are kept in sperate rooms (as opposed to pulling the wall phone off the hook as my Dad seemed to do nightly to keep people from interrupting), but creating genuine personal time is much more of a conscious effort.

A dear friend of mine and I have had endless conversations around technology in our lives over the years, and as we both work in the digital marketing space, avoiding it is impossible. She has been urging me to watch the Ted talk “Connected, but Alone” for just as many years. I finally sat down to watch the talk and I cannot say I was surprised by my love for it.

As we watch technology evolve, it makes our lives so much more simple on so many levels. Connections are now a click, a tweet or a post away. We can have simultaneous conversations with 10 people over a group text all while sending an email and capturing a photo for Instagram. Facebook is in talks to release a PHONE for crying out loud. In short, technology is incredible.

Then why is communicating itself harder than ever before?

Because communication is more than a string of words. Communication leads to relationships, which lead to the betterment of ourselves, which is no surprise, hard work.

In Sherry’s words, “we expect more from technology and less from each other.”

If we want to become more connected, we have to expect more from each other and let technology guide us in getting there – not serve as the sole route.

Is texting a friend easier than spending thirty minutes on the phone each week? Sure is. Do I expect to remain friends without decline over the next decade by sending text messages? Better not put all of my marbles in that bucket.

Now get to work, I owe some people some phone calls / dinner dates / afternoon runs.

0 thoughts on “Connected, but alone

  1. Noah Echols

    I’ve read Turkle’s book “Alone Together” and I have to say I find her argument anecdotally interesting, but mostly unsubstantiated. I’ll loan you the book if you’re interested.

    My problem with this idea that technology creates barriers between people is refuted in academic research that shows that it actually makes us closer than ever before in history, and this same argument has been made throughout history with nearly every major new technology – fiction books, telephones, televisions, etc. Our grandparents were worried that TV would turn our parents into zombies. Similarly, there was an uproar a few years back from parents thinking video games were ruining kids lives, only to find out that video games are actually mostly positive in that they teach really valuable problem solving skills.

    I’m sure there are people who only communicate through mobile phones and Facebook messages, but I don’t know any. From my perspective, people mostly use these tools to facilitate new relationships and grow existing ones (and research agrees).

    Should we be reminded to go outside and play with our friends? Sure. But technology isn’t keeping us from doing that…at least not directly.

  2. Kaitlyn Dennihy

    Thanks Noah, I would love to check out the full book. You are absolutely correct, technology has enabled us to connect more easily than ever before and has allowed us to meet and interact with people with whom we would have never had to opportunity to do so before. However, with that ability comes a greater responsibility to create meaningful conversation beyond initial contact.

    Technology certainly does not hinder us from forming relationships, it does in fact perform the opposite. However, as with any tool, if we use technology in isolation, it will not allow us to simply be more connected just by having it at our fingertips.

  3. Noah Echols

    But is anyone really using technology “in isolation”? I’ve certainly not seen that and other research fails to validate that argument.

    I mean, I get it. People can use the quick text message to replace dinner with the parents. If that does happen, it isn’t the technology (there is always, and always has been, some distraction to keep you preoccupied). There are other factors for keeping us apart that are to blame, and technology is an easy scapegoat.