continuing comments on “alone together,” the insightful and disturbing book by m.i.t. professor, sherry turkle…
in the section entitled, “the new state of self: tethered and marked absent,” turkle bemoans the common experience of being around someone on their cell phone who acts as though the rest of us are “absent”…as if we don’t exist.
Or perhaps it makes more sense to think of things the other way around: it is those on the phone who mark themselves as absent. Sometimes people signal their departure by putting the phone to their ear, but it often happens in more subtle ways–there may be a glance down at a mobile device during dinner or a meeting. A “place” used to comprise a physical space and the people within it. What is a place of those who are physically present have their attention on the absent? At a cafe a block from my home, almost everyone is on a computer or smartphone as they drink their coffee. These people are not my friends, yet somehow I miss their presence.
in my mind, there are significant implications for the church here…
can we accurately represent jesus to those who need him if we’re not completely present? and when we spend time with those in our fellowship, are we guilty of occasionally being present physically, but absent intellectually and emotionally? does technology foster self-centeredness? might our need for connection be construed as addiction (and might that question require examination and repentance?)? does technology foster self-centeredness?
turkle reminisces about vacations with her parents where they learned together and enjoyed each other’s company. she describes it as, “the thrill of disconnection from everything I knew.” on a recent vacation, turkle’s daughter could not comprehend her mother’s discomfort with her constant connection with friends and the “continual reminders” of home.
The internet is more than old wine in new bottles; now we can always be elsewhere.