Title: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Author: Sherry Turkle
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: June 19, 2019
Goodreads Description: Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity—and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground.
We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.
Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.
We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.
The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.
But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.
Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.
The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.
My Review: Sherry Turkle dives into the debate that we have been having more and more, especially in the last decade. The advancement of technology has changed our lives and the way that we communicate with others. However, this book was a bit disappointing, because I personally have a love/hate relationship with technology, and I wish there had more discussion throughout the book related to the positives of technology. Technology allows us to have information readily available. I know what is going on in the world and can stay connected to family and friends no matter where I am. As someone who lives far away from my parents and many of my lifelong friends, the ability to stay connected to them through calls with my cell phone or the WhatsApp messaging and video service has been such an amazing thing for me and has helped me not feel so lonely.
I do believe there needs to be a balance. Devices should not get in the way of face-to-face communication. I never touch my cell phone during meals with friends and family nor do I use it much when I am hanging out with people. However, as mentioned by the author, that is not quite the norm anymore. I have on occasion had to tell people I am with to put down their phone and listen to me, and this can be a bit frustrating. The author mentions that younger people are attending device-free camps, and I really like that concept. My niece, who is 11 years old, has been attending a device-free summer camp for a couple of years now and absolutely loves it. I’ve also been lucky enough to not have had a breakup text message (mentioned in the book), and seriously I can not even imagine that, though I know it happens all the time.
One thing I have trouble with is keeping myself from going on social media while I am at work. I know that by checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. my level of actual work productivity declines. I believe for most of the book, the author was stressing how technology is addictive, and we have just adjusted our lives around that by how we spend our time and how we communicate with others.
While many great points were brought up, the following are things that I had issues with throughout this book that caused me not to get much benefit out of it:
- Take in account introverts. Even before cell phone and other devices – yes I am old enough to remember those days – I still did not talk to random strangers in the doctor’s office waiting room and many times car rides would just be silent with no conversation. I am that person that often prefers not talking. I probably converse much more now through technology then I ever would have without it.
- What is the up with the author’s obsession with Thoreau? I enjoy some good ol’ Thoreau as well, but the author seemed to mention him or quote him in every section of this book. It led to me getting overly excited when she would quote or mention other authors or influential people. She should expand her influences a bit.
- Robots? Was it really important to spend so much of the book on the danger of robots? Maybe that is where the world is headed, as more and more machines are doing jobs that people formally did. Maybe I will have robots doing my housework in the future – to be honest I would welcome that. However, I felt that this section at the end of the book was just another way of saying that technology is bad and scary.
- Technology is bad. As mentioned above, there are some benefits to the age of technology. Those benefits should be mentioned more. I felt that the author was really hating on technology for most of the book instead of really discussing how we can continue having one-on-one communication and attention while still existing in this technological age. While the author might not be fond of the fact that society now exists in a world of technology, it is what it is, and as humans we adapt to the world we live in, so why not talk a little about the good aspects of technology. For example:
- Through my cell phone applications, I am able to listen to podcasts and books (including this one), while I am out for a walk or driving (though for the record I do not play or text on my phone while I am driving, even while I am at a stop light – please stop doing that people as it is so dangerous – this is the end of my PSA).
- Research for educational papers and books are much easier and efficient now with information at our finger tips.
- While communication has changed from face-to-face conversations to online conversations, I will say, as mentioned above, that I now communicate with more people on a regular basis than I would have without the online conversations, especially since I have family and friends all over the world.
Yes, we live in a world now where people play on their phones more than talk to each other; teachers are having to attract students attention away from phones; drivers are getting into accidents because they are texting and driving; and privacy is a thing of the past. It is a different world than the one that existed 40 years ago, but I do believe that people are adapting. I think while social media is still very addictive to a majority of the population, there are many people I know who have purposely ended their social media accounts or deleted those apps from their phones. I just wish this book would have focused a bit more on what people are doing to not allow technology to be their only method of conversation.
My Rating: ♦ ♦
What are your thoughts of this age of technology that we live in? What are some things that you do to reclaim conversation? Can you exist without technology?