I finally bought a smart phone two years ago. When people asked me how I liked it, I admitted, “I look at it too much.” My daughter might text. Someone I went to high school with might post that I haven’t changed. Macys might have another 24-hour sale. What was happening to me?
Must. Have. Control.
Psychologist and author, Sherry Turkle says, in part, it’s about control. “They want to go in and out of all the places they are, because the thing that matters most to them, is control, over where they put their attention.” So I could be in a boring meeting and escape into someone’s island vacation on Facebook. Cool.
But is it cool?
Shortly after my divorce and my daughter’s departure for college, I made an effort to meet new people, volunteer, go out to dinner – a lot. Post phone, I found I could spend the entire weekend home alone, sort of. Just me and my Facebook friends. Turkle says, “We connect more and more, but in the process we set ourselves up to be isolated.”
Inner mean girl
As a result of the recent presidential election, I also found my inner mean girl. I posted lightly veiled personal insults that I would never say to someone’s face. Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, says that writing, whether via text, post or email, uses the left brain which is not connected to our emotions. Face-to-face communication uses the right brain, which is connected to our emotions and considers facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, gestures, posture, intensity and timing.
This emotional disconnect can have devastating consequences. The lives of Monica Lewinski, Justine Sacco and so many others were torn apart by the public humiliation and cyber bullying of a faceless mob.
Neither Turkle nor Siegle are suggesting that we completely disconnect from our devices, only that we use them to enhance our relationships, rather than replace them -- and that we use them to build people up, rather than tear them down.