The way in which people communicate online via social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be seen as a modern form of madness, according to a sociologist.
Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
writes in her new book, Alone Together : A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological.
Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, technology is
actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world, she suggests.
We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us, she writes.
Review: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
From US Amazon
In Alone Together Sherry Turkle offers a fascinating and highly readable analysis of how increasingly intelligent machines and a highly networked world are impacting us socially and psychologically. The book is roughly
divided into two parts: the first focuses on social robots, or autonomous machines that interact directly with us, while the second part delves into the increasingly networked world and the implications a tethered society in which many individuals
are unable to break away from email, social networking and in some cases prefer online games like Second Life to the real world.
Some of the most fascinating material in the book involves Turkle's investigations
of how children perceive these technologies and how their social world view is impacted. Early in the book, Turkle tells how children lined up at an exhibit that included live (but immobile) turtles felt that it would have been better to replace the live
animals with robots -- both because robots would provide a more active display and because the captive animals could then be returned to their natural environment. This idea of children (and even adults) placing a low premium on authenticity comes up
again and again. Robotic pets are seen as having important advantages over the real thing. Elderly patients indicate that, at least in some areas, they might prefer a robotic caretaker to a human one.
conclusion is that our social preferences are evolving to include, and in many cases even prefer, technology over people. As she says, Our relationships with robots are ramping up; our relationships with people are ramping down. This is obviously
something that should perhaps give us pause.