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Is social media making us “alone together”?

Are technologies like Facebook and Twitter destroying intimacy and contributing to social and personal breakdown today? That’s what one prominent sociologist, Sherry Tuckle, argues in her recent book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

As an article in the Guardian noted yesterday, Sherry Turkle’s argument is pretty simple:

Turkle’s thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.

The article goes on to summarize a number of other recent books that have come out in criticism of social media and their impact on us today. But, the article also goes on to explain that this “backlash” against social media has it own critics and that there is much work yet to be done. 

If you’re interested in this, you should also check out Stephen Colbert’s interview with Sherry Tuckle. Colbert, of course, plays devil’s advocate and argues that constant use of social media is a good thing.

That’s multitasking; that’s productivity; that’s how we’re going to beat the Chinese.

Tuckle responds  by arguing that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with social media. She isn’t arguing that we should get rid of social media, but she does think that we have to come let it dominate our lives in some extremely unhealthy ways. So, she calls on us to “take a step back” and reconsider the role social media should play in our everyday life.

And, she makes an argument at one point that any educator should take note of. In response to Colbert’s suggestion that her book is too long and should have been written in 140 characters or less, she responds:

We have lost our respect for the fact that some arguments really do take…the long form.

Now, as one who blogs regularly and has both a Twitter and a Facebook account, I definitely think that social media can be used in a balanced manner that leads to greater communication and creativity. But, I do think we need to be aware of the  problems that an unbalanced use of social media might be causing in society. So, books like this are worth paying attention to, regardless of whether you agree with the alarms being raised.