Owned By Your Phone? It’s Complicated.


Ever wonder what your mobile device is really doing to your relationships, your happiness…your life?

Today’s guest, famed MIT Professor, bestselling author and researcher on how technology affects the human condition, Sherry Turkle, has been studying questions like this for decades.

In her new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, she looks at what phones and the technology that rides inside them are doing not just for us, but to us.

What she reveals is beyond scary.

Put your cell phone on the table when you’re with someone else, she offers, you’ve just destroyed the possibility of deep conversation. Without even realizing it, everything gets superficial. You don’t go deeper, because you want to be able to scratch the near-addictive phone-checking itch. And that’s okay when the convo is light, but not when it gets real.

We also talk about how apps and texting are destroying empathy and solitude and making it harder and harder to actually know ourselves and develop real relationships. We explore the “I share, therefore I am” ethos and how technology is profoundly altering the dating scene. We talk about what computers and mobile devices do to classrooms and learning, seeing how some professors who at first welcomed them are now banning them and why. Turkle offers:

“Technology doesn’t just change what we do, it changes who we are.”

We need to understand how, then leverage it to work with, rather than against us.

In the end, Sherry isn’t anti-technology, she’ll tell you. She’s pro-conversation.

This conversation led me to immediately change how I use my cell phone and think about the model I’m creating for my daughter. It was also a reminder of why I record these conversations, with rare exception, in-person, rather than remotely. Because it changes the conversation and the depth of the relationship.

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Photo credit: Peter Urban

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