The Web

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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. – Soren Kierkegaard

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future Steve Jobs.

These two famous quotes suggest that we can only really understand our lives by looking back on things we’ve already done.

If you ask me what I miss most during the lockdown, I miss having a face-to-face conversation with people. I miss seeing faces. We may not acknowledge it, metaphorically speaking we do often mask our true feelings unwittingly or wittingly because we learn that you do not wear your emotions on your sleeve. Now we are actually wearing masks and shields. There were times when we would rather communicate via emails and texts and now that appears to be the preferred or only mode in light of the present situation.

Since the invention of the Internet, how speedily technology has advanced and before we know it, many of us are performing most tasks online and technocrats are definitely scaling greater heights by moving all kinds of platforms online . How timely that technology happens and manages to drive commerce and bureaucracy along despite the lockdowns . Many people have gotten used to doing all their shopping online and you see an increase demand of delivery services, and you can actually stay home 24/7. With the Internet, we get instant access to loads of information and how frequently we look for instant gratifications from games we play on our phones and things we post on social media. As I navigate the cyberspace, I easily traverse from one platform to another and there are times I cannot recall how I have gotten to a particular site, some are true find. It feels as if your horizon is being expanded infinitely.

Some ten years ago, there was this time when I had been thinking much about the virtual world where we had been sharing information and pictures that could present all kinds of possibilities as well as untruths about who we really are. Then I read about the publication of this book by MIT Professor Sherry Turkle, I had to get it . Its title “Alone Together” is appropriate and spot on.

As the title “Alone Together Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other”  indicates,  Professor Turkle in her book analyzes our increased dependence on technology and the desiderata for electronic interaction.Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. Professor Turkle has done extensive research about the psychological and social impacts of today’s technological world.

In her book, the author has referred to our vulnerabilities rather than our needs and reminds us all that we have to choose to be less vulnerable and more evolved.

The narrative of Alone Together describes an arc : we expect more from technology and less from each other. This puts us at the still center of a perfect storm. Overwhelmed, we have been drawn to connections that seem low risk and always at hand : Facebook friends, avatars, IRC chat partners. If convenience and control continue to be our priorities, we shall be tempted by sociable robots, where, like gamblers at their slot machines, we are promised excitement programmed in, just enough to keep us in the game. At the robotic moment, we have to be concerned that the simplication and reduction of relationship is no longer some thing we complain about. It may become what we expect, even desire.

We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, and yet we have allowed them to diminish us.

We go online because we are busy but end up spending more time with technology and less with each other. We defend connectivity as a way to be close, even as we effectively hide from each other. At the limit, we will settle for the inanimate, if that’s what it takes.’

The ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy. We text each other at family dinners, while we jog, while we drive, as we push our children on swings in the park. We don’t want to intrude on each other, so instead we constantly intrude on each other, but not in ” real time”. ‘

The above are excerpts from the chapter ‘Conclusion Necessary Conversations’ in Alone Together Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other by Sherry Turkle.

We seem to think that sharing is caring, how often you end up getting the same kind of mailers or jokes repeatedly. There is also this fear of missing out thus we want to be informed. We used to get all kinds of information and jokes in our mailbox and now they are sent via WhatsApp or Telegram. Every piece of information can be sent in a flash by simply pressing ‘send’ button. We think we can multitask when in reality, we are incapable of doing any one task well. I find myself easily distracted as I try to maximize my time.

The Internet is a double-edged sword. Technology has allowed us to leave a voicemail or an e-mail rather than having a face-to-face conversation. It has provided a way out of difficult conversations.How often we avoid making the phone call instead we have taken an easier way out by emailing or sending instant messages  hence avoiding any awkwardness or unpleasantness of declining an invite or delivering some piece of information which would not be welcome by the recipient. Technology has allowed us to minimise human contact.In light of the social distancing ruling in the name of managing the pandemic, remote learning and working are in place. That is the irony of our time. This is not something I would rejoice. We are social beings, we need physical interactions and exchange of ideas and views about things. Laws are made to purportedly protect our datas and safeguard our privacy when in reality we have compromised our privacy and allowed algorithms to keep tabs on what we do online and consequently our likes and dislikes are exploited commercially and politically. Laws are implemented to control the spread of false news, copyright infringement and unauthorized publication but the public has no way of verifying the truth of all those news being published on approved news sites. We have to trust our own judgments to know what sources can be relied upon. It used to be the wild wild west and now we have the World Wide Web.

Given the situation, we adapt to the new norm that is Orwellien. Nineteen Eighty-Four, a dystopian novel written by George Orwell is set in a society that subjects people to constant government surveillance, mind-control and loss of individual rights. There must be checks and balances. As it is we have grown too comfortable with the Internet and all that comes with new technology.

Seemingly the Internet enables us to stay connected, in reality, we are far from being connected at all. Do you not find that we have invariably become more used to machine rather than human side of things?

Books glorious books! 

4 thoughts on “The Web

  1. Fantastic review. The book really seems to nail exactly what’s going on with the human interface with technology.

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    1. Hi Lilianne Thank you for stopping by. The book is based on hundreds of interviews that Sherry Turkle had conducted with adults and children and the interviews are about various forms of digital experiences including their interactions with robots and digital creatures such as Tamagotchis. Turkle’s views are insightful and perceptive.

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  2. Hi

    I agree with your thoughts … but then Electronic interaction is handy to contact people we loathe but still need to communicate

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    1. Hi Hoon, thanks for reading the post.
      Technology has given us the option to communicate electronically in situations when we would prefer not to have that face-to-face conversation or pick up the phone. Electronic communication is convenient in certain work or networking situations but you might end up with a situation where emails go back and forth without resolution. When you answer a text, surely they will respond and you will have to craft a reply, and you may prefer to have the time to think about whether you want to respond, if so what your response should be. Technology certainly speeds up the response time thus we find ourselves having to constantly respond to texts and emails as people generally expect answers almost instantaneously. That is the culture we are in and of course, it is up to us individuals to strike a balance.

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