Are we alone together? by Ela Erozan Gursel

alone-crowdHave you ever felt alone in the middle of the crowd? We all do from time to time but in this age of technology this feeling becomes more dominant in our daily life.

We replace our friends with our computer and mobile phone, social venues with Facebook and Twitter. We cannot help texting friends and colleagues during meetings. Parents don’t give their full attention to their kids as they can’t give a break on their texting and emailing during breakfast or dinner. A group of friends hang out in a café with iPhones and iPads in their hands. Although we are physically together, our minds are in different places. In other words, just as MIT Professor Sherry Turkle puts it; ‘we are all alone together.’

Yesterday, I viewed a TED talk by Professor Turkle, who is the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. As a psychologist and sociologist, Turkle studies the impact of technology on our modern relationships.

She believes that this technology driven communication will result in trouble – trouble in how we relate to each other and most importantly to ourselves.

In a weird way, people want to be with each other, but also somewhere else. Therefore, they instantly connect to all these other places they want to be. This creates a new way of being alone together. They want to have full control of their life, territory and attention. They listen to what they interest them and skip the rest. Professor Turkle says that people fear having real conversations with one another. Real conversations take place in real time and you have no control over what you’re going to say. On the other hand, texting, emailing or posting on Facebook or Twitter give us plenty of time to present our point perfectly. We can edit over and over again if we want to.  We simply rely on technology to clean up our mess and put on the perfect make-up for a better image.

Turkle concludes that this shows our vulnerability: We’re lonely but we’re afraid of intimacy. So, technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control.

I can hear the danger signals that Professor Turkle is talking about. However, I believe everything can be good in moderation. It is such a big paradox since it is the same technology that brings us closer together. In my personal and professional experience, technology enables me to connect with the world.  As an expat living in Singapore, I am on videoconference with my Mom who is eager to see her grandson’s daily activities. I work home-based, read papers, research topics on the Internet and attend meetings on Skype with my colleagues in Turkey. I truly love technology because it lets me connect with the people I love and work 8,600 km away from home. However, I find it disrespectful if someone continuously texts messages during a lunch or sends his condolences by a dry text message. I believe technology becomes dangerous when it becomes a hiding tool. Many people prefer reading about their interests or shopping for their needs online through their mobile gadgets. These are fine if people do it in their spare time.  We shouldn’t obsess over connecting with everyone all the time and concentrate on the meeting, presentation or class. Instead of giving our attention to something more fun, let’s focus on the moment!

elaerozangurselEla Erozan Gürsel writes a weekly column named “Değişim Yelpazesi ” on global business trends for Dünya Gazetesi on behalf of Datassist for almost two years. Her feature topics include: green energy; climate change; impacts of financial crisis on companies, sectors and regions; innovative technologies in sciences, human resources and management; social networks transforming business and politics; changing dynamics of marketing and branding.

She also writes articles for international magazines published in Singapore.

Prior to her writing career, she worked at Datassist as a Project Manager in a project that combines human resources and mobile communications with the aim to connect blue-collar workers and employers through mobile phones. Before engaging in this exciting project, she was in pharmaceutical sales working for a multinational company. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC, majoring in International Studies with a concentration on International Business and Europe. She worked in Washington D.C. as an Account Manager at a boutique telemarketing firm that specializes in fund raising and publication renewals. She speaks Turkish, English, French, and Spanish. She currently resides in Singapore with her husband.

All these projects are inspiring for artists, students and general public, who would like to be proud of the richness of the Turkish culture. For these cultural projects to last and prosper, museums need to be financially supported by the government agencies, private sector and international foundations. I hope Baksı Museum will keep up its creative projects with the help of professionals’ efforts and get the attention of potential sponsors in order to further contribute to the local economy and art.  

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