Sherry Turkle discussed the effects social media has played in the empathy people experience. Empathy is the ability for one to relate to the feelings, emotions, and experiences of another. Turkle argues that, while social media has done much in the way of activism and reconnecting long-lost relationships, the over-availability of technology has led to a decrease in empathy. She states that this is because, as a society, we’ve become consumed by “likes” and “shares” on social media posts and develop less meaningful relationships as a result. To compensate for this, those on social media have taken to expressing their concerns through activism.
While I understand and agree with the general statement Turkle is making, I don’t believe the reality is nearly as drastic as she describes. According to Turkle, people often completely stop conversations when looking on phones (possibly for something to contribute) and only talk in person about the most important matters. This view is not only dystopian, but it also ignores the ways many utilize technology and social media to form personal relationships with those they would otherwise be unable to.
In my middle and high school years, my interests were very niche. I had a hard time connecting to those in my school due to no similar interests being shared. My refuge became my laptop, where I’d play video games and talk on forums with those who liked the same things as me. Skype was key in this, as we could engage face-to-face and show one another what our lives outside of the games consisted of. While we never met in person, these people became just as close to me as anyone in school could have. To this day, I still talk to several and am currently in a long-term relationship with one.
While I can agree that the modern technological obsession can cause a strain on personal relationships, and also that activism is no substitute for empathy, I believe that the reason this strain is happening is due to misuse. Social media and instant messaging are still two very new technologies, and therefore many people (especially those of the older, less-experienced generations) abuse the innovations as common-day novelties. To say that these apps and websites ruin the lives of people overlooks the upcoming adult population, who has used these programs to form their strongest non-familial relationships.
Turkle, Sherry. “Social Media: Transforming Communication at Work and in the Public Sphere.” Social Media Event. Monroe Lecture Hall, Hempstead. 15 February 2017. Lecture.