“Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” by Sherry Turkle

The essay starts by introducing Roman and other high-school students that admit to texting and driving. The author explains that teenagers are willing to put their lives in danger because of the urgent need to connect. Turkle (2011) states that the contemporary generation is particularly used to having robot pets. Young individuals are used to communicating with their friends online; therefore, they feel a constant urge to be present in this part of their reality. Teenagers are eager to reflect on their values and identity; however, the Internet and social media limit the time they have to engage in their thoughts. Contemporary technology has influenced the way adolescents view privacy and intimacy, as it is common to share messages and photos with other people.

Furthermore, the Internet and cellphones influenced the process of maturing, as now teenagers do not need to feel pressured to develop independence. Thus, the links between personal freedom and connectedness with caretakers are especially blurred, as some students choose not to answer their phones as it violates their feeling of independence (Turkle, 2011). Parents, on the other hand, feel extremely worried when their children decide not to answer their phones, as they are not instantly aware of the reasons for the lack of response. The author argues that adolescents constantly discover new aspects of their personalities and skills due to their explorative nature. However, the need for constant connection with others might negatively affect the gradual process of understanding their own needs and feelings.

Other teenagers describe their relationship with texting and social media, as Julia and Claudia feel emotionally connected to the conversations they are having on her phone. Girls do not experience happiness when they do not get a response or are not able to check their messages. Sociologists describe the constant importance of validation, which explains that teenagers have a need to share their emotions to get instant feedback. Currently, teenagers have many people that they can quickly contact if they want to share a feeling, which makes it hard to build strong and long-lasting relationships. The certain norms of experiencing emotions and relating to other people are partly due to the fears of loneliness and abandonment (Turkle, 2011).The author does not consider this behavior pathological, as it is a new normal. However, a common way of interaction might not be helpful for adolescent’s development. Turkle reports on Erik Erikson’s belief that it is essential to have some time to escape instant messaging to gain psychological autonomy.

Erikson argued that teenagers are capable of projecting their insecurities into the online world. For instance, building a house, creating an appearance, and acquiring connections in the game The Sims Online helps adolescents to create an imaginary perfect world for themselves. This is being referred to as identity work, which can also occur on social media. Thus, a Facebook profile is a projected identity of a person who created it. Mona shared that when she was writing about herself in her new profile she wanted to appear more successful and interesting. The author compares the process of accepting friends on Facebook to the Victorian era ritual of calling cards. Turkle’s friend compared sharing on Facebook to being back in high school, as it can be stressful to not have enough friends.

The essay describes the process of writing different profiles for various purposes, including schools, social media, different universities, and more. A high-school senior Brad shared his experience noticing girls at his school editing their photos to appear thinner, due to the severe anxiety of not being presented well. He also believes that instant messaging can be comforting but also it gives people the opportunity to ignore others (Turkle, 2011). Brad explains that social media requires one’s full presence, as spending only a little time online is not enough to keep up with others. The way people present themselves on social media matters as anything they choose to display is being evaluated. Therefore, profiling online sometimes leads to individuals following certain stereotypes, because they want to be presented a certain way.

Reference

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Basic Books.

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