As part of our focus on all things relational, we plan to include posts/articles from innovative folks in related fields. One of the most creative thinkers/writers around is MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle. Here’s an Op-Ed published earlier in The New York Times.Turkle has been at the forefront of critiquing the way our over-use of hi-tech devices impacts our relationship with ourselves and each other. In this brief piece, she reflects on her research, which looks at the the way these devices affect our capacity for solitude. She makes the point that solitude is essential for both our mental health and our relationships with others. She cites one study where participants opted to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit alone with their thoughts for under fifteen minutes!
She also looks at how our constant technology fixation erodes our experience of empathy for others. She says;
“In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan led by the psychologist Sara Konrath put together the findings of 72 studies that were conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.
Across generations, technology is implicated in this assault on empathy. We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation — at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, in which we play with ideas and allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable. But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.”