The Creep of Social Media Raises Big Questions – Room for Debate –

The Creep of Social Media Raises Big Questions

Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle 


Social media won’t get less attractive the longer they exist. But we will learn how to use them more wisely. Right now, we’re smitten and look away from problems; we behave like young lovers who are afraid that too much talking will spoil the romance. As we grow into a more mature relationship, we’ll find time to talk. I see at least three necessary conversations.

We grew up with social media and tend to think of them as all grown up. But in fact, we are in early days.

First, both in our personal and work lives, social media make it easy for us to hide from each other, even as we are constantly connected to each other. We’d rather text than talk, we’d rather post online than meet face-to-face. But online, we end up performing for each other, putting forth the self we want to be. With friends, we share what is easy to share. At work, we don’t like to archive false starts and missteps. So in many cases, we make it harder to learn from each other and mentor each other.

Hiding from each other has some costs for grownups. For children, those costs multiply. Recently, we have been presented with the suggestion that Facebook may be offered to children under 13. But on social media, children don’t learn negotiation skills, how to read a face, how to put themselves in the place of another, how to apologize and, most striking, the difference between an apology and saying you’re sorry. As more mature consumers of social media, we’ll want to talk about all of this.

Second, social media increase the volume and velocity of connections to a point where communicating in anything but online postings seems almost impossible. We demand immediate answers and are willing to ask simple questions to get them. We come to measure success by e-mails answered, connections made, posts responded to. We become transactional and reactive. This is not good for productivity or creativity. We’ll want to talk about this.

And finally, we will ask two other questions of social media, now becoming increasingly urgent: What is democracy without privacy? What is intimacy without privacy? We grew up with social media and so we tend to think of them as all grown up. But in fact, we are in early days. There is plenty of time to change how we build and use these media. We are not going to turn away from them. But we will better align social media to our human purposes, and they will have helped us clarify what these are.

 The Creep of Social Media Raises Big Questions – Room for Debate –


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