To encourage students to be cautious of their ties to technology and social media, the keynote address for the Hofstra Cultural Center’s Social Media Summit focused on the subtle impacts that technology can have on us socially. The speaker was Dr. Sherry Turkle, professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of “The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other.” On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Turkle gave insight on understanding the relationship between technology and human social behavior.
“The message of my work is that this is not an anti-technology message,” Turkle said. Wednesday’s symposium was designed to teach the Hofstra community about how social media and technology have shaped our world as well as understand the value of their online presence, how to effectively utilize technology and how technology effects relationships with other people.
“It is so easy to let technology slip into a way that it undermines our conversations,” she said. Turkle’s keynote address emphasized the value of face-to-face conversation and she identified how technology has changed it. For example, in a classroom setting, she said students learn best from in-person experiences.
Turkle encourages her students to stay off their phones during class and engage in meaningful dialogue. Her work has even found its way into classrooms at Hofstra. Dr. Cynthia Bogard, Professor of Sociology at Hofstra, often uses Turkle’s work to create conversation amongst her students. “She offers my beginning sociology students a solid format from which to begin to assess their own lifestyles with a critical eye. I appreciate Professor Turkle’s ability to spark reflection in my students,” Bogard said.
Another primary theme of the lecture was that there is an increase in dependability on technology which impacts a person’s ability to be empathetic. Turkle mentioned a study done by Dr. Sara Konrath which recently found a 40 percent decrease in empathy among young adults who use technology.
Turkle discussed a trend occurring on college campuses across the country called, “Rule of Three.”
The Rule of Three is that if six people are in a conversation, and three other people are participating in it, it is not rude to check your phone. However, Turkle noted that once a phone comes out in a conversation, the dialogue often turns trivial because people begin to focus on the other world in their hands.
Freshman journalism and Spanish major, Courtney Shapiro, agreed. “Her speech did make me more aware of how easy it is not to focus on what people are saying due to the distractions of our many devices,” Shapiro said. Turkle described this phenomenon as being “Alone together.”
Her message is not anti-technology because she thinks it plays a valuable role in society today, and she knows it is not going away. Yet, she hopes her message will make people more aware of the consequence of always being online and not appreciating the people around them.