Learn to Be Alone

I run into this TEDx talk by Sherry Turkle this morning while flipping through my Flipboard on the iPad for some interesting exciting things to start my Sunday. Then I found a longer Authors@Google talk about her book:  Alone Together, Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

I get interested in this talk because I am doing a pilot project exploring first-year engineering students’ use of social media for seeking social support, and I always have an interest  in the deep psychological issues and solutions for human, emotion, interaction, communication, loneliness and technology.



For some time, I thought technology, if properly used, might be the solution for loneliness, stress etc., because it makes us so much more connected. Now that I realize that we modern people are so vulnerable, fragile, stressed and disappointed to each other that we turn to technology for solution. We fantasize the connections enabled by technology as companionship. Sherry’s opinion is that “If we don’t teach our children how to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely. Having gotten into the habit of constant connection, we risk losing our capacity for the kind of solitude, that refreshes and restores. We need more conversations rather than just connections”. I agree that we have to learn to enjoy the solitude, learn to be strong by ourselves, because vulnerability causes addictions sometimes.

“We are addicted to modern technologies just like we are addicted to food”, though I personally think I am still more addicted to food than technologies, but I cannot get rid of food, and I have to learn the healthy ways to live with it. We cannot give up saying “whatever, just eat”, we have to fight (of course there are deeper psychological issues in this fight), we just don’t give up.

The part of Sherry’s talk on social robotics reminds me one episode (S05E14) of The Big Bang Theory I watched a couple days ago, where the Indian guy Raj fell in love with Siri on iPhone 4S, because he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he is so lonely in this country, and he is not able to talk with women without the assistance of alcohol. The question intriguing is how we can live with modern technologies and everything else in a healthy way? How can we learn to be not addicted to something because we felt vulnerable and socially inept?