I really liked the idea of using expressive type throughout my project. The story of my book has been put together as if someone is really trying to send a message with loads of key words and phrases to go alongside it. I thought it would look really eye catching if I used brush fonts so slather and overlay the body text showing passion for the message trying to get put across.
Here is two examples of what I was going for and I think they really emphasise each key section within the book.
Before I decided that I wanted to use expressive typography, I put together this first draft where I just took all the research I had conducted and created this sort of infographic typography design. I liked where the idea was going but I knew it needed a lot of work as it didn’t have much of a aesthetic look to it, it didn’t have enough life to it.
After finding my inspiration from expressive typography I then redesigned the wall and made it more fluent and lively. It has a much more interesting style.
The point of my project is to get people to start interacting with each other so I thought I had to create a space where people could interact! I came up with the idea of creating conversation cards with questions that would spark a proper conversation. I needed to make sure the questions would allow for further conversation and not just a one word response.
Also for my book I thought it would be an interesting idea to have a dot that represents the reader as a connection. As they then read through, the dot would get larger and larger acting like a visual metaphor. I realised that this could be an ongoing theme throughout my project and was open to even more ideas to use this concept. I thought it would be a nice idea to get people to have their say and what better way to use dots for people to write on stick up. I found white dot sticker labels online so the plan was coming together! When the audience put their dot up on the wall they are adding another connection to the wall, as people come together to give their opinion on what they about the topic.
I started to think about the style I wanted to go for, and with colours already in mind, I started to explore the idea of expressive type. I liked the idea of maybe having slashings of a brush overlapping my body text to express the message I will try to communicate. This would also look great for my wall as if someone had graffitied all over it.
I did a lot of research into different ways of expressing type and these are a few of my favourite examples that I hope inspire me when creating my own. I think using a brush font is a must as it really stands out but can also run perfectly through my body text. I already have the look I want in my head and I really think it’s going to work well with my concept! I want my project to have a particular style and identity which I think could really drive a piece of design that informs a really strong message.
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will be full of idiots.”- Albert Einstein
What we think we are-
“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives us purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it it there is suffering.”- Brené Brown
Is it real?
We live in a world where we believe we’re the most connected society that has ever been. We are a generation that cannot go two minutes without checking our mobile phones and god forbid we leave home without them. As humans we want to be connected, we are hardwired to connect, our bodies need human connection to prosper. Social media allows us to feel this connection, but the question is, is it real? We live in the age of distraction with our multiple technological devices which in a way gives us the sense that we are connected to the world, to our friends, to our loved ones and to the people that we share our lives with, but we’re not. Social media is an easy way to ‘connect’ without really connecting. Although we might have more connections through hundreds and thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, these connections don’t have real meaning.
Have we become too immersed in the digital world and not present enough in the real world?
“Social media sites creates illusion of connectivity.” – Malay Shan
Social media sites can give us both a false sense of connection and cause overload and put increased stress in our psyche and inevitably our bodies. They can make it hard to distinguish between forming meaningful versus casual relationships. They don’t really work for learning about each other, for really coming to know and understand each other. We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves. We are becoming a generation of ‘touch and go’ through superficial connections as opposed to authentic and vulnerable inside out connections. The question then becomes whether e-connections truly stands for e as in ‘electronic’ or rather e for ‘empty?’
We have become obsessed with cultivating horizontal relationships, with vast networks of shallow relationships with people who are not present. The compulsion to check our phones and the need to stay tied into the horizontal network can make people withdraw from the present. We see groups of friends together, but not ‘together.’ No matter where we are we have our phones in the palms of our hands, staring at the words on our screens instead of the face of the person sitting across from us. These little devices, the little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are. We choose to devote large portions of our time to connecting online and are becoming more isolated than ever in our non virtual lives. We want to be connected 24/7 out of fear that we might miss something, but in fact what we’re really missing is the world around us.
“We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”- Albert Schweitzer
What we really are-
“Social media is the most disruptive form of communication humankind has seen since the last disruptive form of communications, email.”- Ryan Holmes
Technology can create elaborate social networks online, but these can unexpectedly lead to social isolation. In some cases, communicating online replaces face to face interaction for users, reducing the amount of time they actually spend in the company of other human beings. In addition, these social networks sometimes replace a small number of strong social connections with a larger number of much shallower connections, leading to situations where a user may have large numbers of ‘friends’ but few actual real world companions. This can lead to depression and feelings of loneliness as spending more time online with social networks can actually have an adverse effect on a user’s happiness level. A lot of advocates of social media will say that they actually increase connectedness between people and while this is true on a far reaching but basic level, it is actually providing an automatic distancing factor when it comes to taking our relationships with others out of the shallow end. Social media doesn’t give us the nuanced understanding and relationship building we get when we are present with our friends. For sharing intimacies, for sharing difficult news, for saying we are sorry, for really getting to know someone. It gives us that sense of connection without the demands of intimacy and the responsibilities of intimacy.
“As connected as we are with technology, it’s also removed us from having to have human connection, made it more convenient to not be intimate.” -Sandra Bullock
Technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. We’re designing technologies that will give 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. But we’re not so comfortable. We are not so much in control. Instead of relying on the people around us we are relying on our phones and in turn are becoming lonelier than ever. Loneliness is an increasing problem in modern life. Growing reliance on social technology rather than face to face interaction is thought to be making us feel more isolated. It means we feel less connected to others and our relationships are becoming more superficial and less rewarding. Loneliness is typically associated with being alone, but it also effects people when they are surrounded by others and well connected socially. This is because loneliness is about the quality rather than the quantity of relationships that we have.
“We expect more from technology and less from each other.” -Sherry Turkle
We have become so good at isolating ourselves with social media that we don’t even realise that we’re lonely. We don’t want to admit that if someone took away our phones, we would feel uncomfortable making small talk with a stranger or filling an awkward silence with a friend. We don’t like thinking about sitting by ourselves and feeling disconnected. But at the same time, how much closer do you really feel to someone just because you saw their Instagram? We know exactly what our friends are doing every day, not because they told us about it, but because we saw it on their Snapchat story. If someone asked us if we feel connected, our answer would be a resounding “yes.” But how many times have we sat with someone without checking our phones? Taken a group picture and not instantly thought of how to filter it? Actually enjoyed being out on a Friday night without Snapchatting it to our entire address books? We might feel like we’re deeply connected to all our Facebook friends, but in reality, we’ve mastered the art of being lonely.
Why does this matter? (Being ‘elsewhere’)
We can ask ourselves, why does this matter? But the way in which we relate to each other is in jeopardy, but also in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self reflection. We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere, connected to all the different places they want to be. People want to customise their lives. 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. We’ve ended up hiding from each other, even as we’re all constantly connected to each other.
Being in the ‘moment.’
“The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments.”- Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the primary teachings of Buddhism is that happiness and contentment can only truly be achieved by living in the now, by appreciating each moment as it is occurring. We put our conversations with friends “on pause” to disappear into our phones, when what we’re really doing is putting our lives on pause. We have gotten to the stage where we can’t be having a great moment with our friends without stopping and posting it all over social media. We are tweeting and posting away our awareness of the present moment and trading it for recognition in our social circle. We are more concerned with letting everyone know just what we’re doing than we are with experiencing it for ourselves.
We believe the connections we have over social media are true friendships when in fact, if you have a crisis in your life, you’ll notice something. It won’t be your Twitter followers who come to sit with you. It won’t be your Facebook friends who help you turn it round. It’ll be your flesh and blood and friends who you have deep and nuanced and textured, face to face relationships with, the connections you have but take no notice of.
“The quality of your communication is the quality of your life.”- Anthony Robbins
Life, he told them, is not lived in the glow of a monitor. “It’s not about your friend count. It’s about the friends you count on.”- Eric Schmidt
Technology and social media has completely transformed the way we communicate, and it turns out not for the better. We are dehumanising ourselves, we are losing our human qualities. The quality of our communication. The quality of face to face communication.
“Electronic communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.”- Charles Dickens
What we are missing-
We need to start talking. Really talking.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”- Bryant H. McGill
“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”- Richard Moss
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued.”- Brené Brown
People believe that face to face communication is overrated. How we trick ourselves into thinking that we can truly know someone and experience real communication through text alone. Communication is about more than just exchanging information. It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. Effective communication is also a two way street. It’s not only how we convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way we intended, it’s also how we listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said and to make the other person feel heard and understood. We are a society that hears, but doesn’t listen. We need to learn to empathise. We need to put ourselves in the place of another person and imagine what they are going through. We suppress this capacity by putting ourselves in environments where we’re not looking at each other in the eye, not sticking with the other person long enough or hard enough to follow what they’re feeling. The mere presence of mobile phones in face to face conversations inhibits the development of closeness and trust, and reduces the amount of empathy we feel from our partners. This, if you dig deep, is why there’s a shadow growing, a prevailing sense of loneliness and isolation in an increasingly populated world. What’s the point in having a conversation if you don’t care about what’s being said? In order to feel we need to understand and in order to understand we need to listen. Are we getting to the point of not feeling?
“The art of conversation lies in listening.”- Malcolm Forbes
“Nonverbal communication forms a social language that is in many ways richer and more fundamental than our words.”- Leonard Mlodinow
Effective communication is the glue that helps us deepen our connections to others and improve teamwork, decision making, and problem solving. It creates a bond. It enables us to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust. More than just the words we use, face to face communication involves the integration of multimodal sensory information, such as nonverbal cues. The way we listen, look, move, and react tells the other person whether or not we care, if we’re being truthful, and how well we’re listening. When our nonverbal signals match up with the words we’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they generate tension, mistrust, and confusion. These factors are critical to effective communication and play a huge role in helping to synchronise the brain with others within the conversation. In fact, research has shown a significant increase in the neural synchronisation between the brains of two partners during face to face communication, but not during any other type of communication. We need social contact and we do better physically and mentally when we have human contact.
“The spoken word belongs half to him who speaks, and half to him who listens.”- French Proverb
Nonverbal communication adds repetition. It repeats the message we are making. It can substitute a verbal message as our body language conveys a far more vivid message than our words. It compliments and emphasises our message as we use facial expressions to increase the impact of the words we use. They allow us to express ourselves. These nonverbal cues are what prevent miscommunication. Without any information other than words, the meaning we make out of the cryptic electronic messages we receive is necessarily shaped by our own feelings and expectations. Consequently, what we believe is being said may have very little to do with what the the other person wishes to communicate.
In the absence of nonverbal cues we have very little to help us discern what the other person is trying to tell us. Without these clarifying cues, we frequently ‘fill in the blanks’ with our customary worries and assumptions. So, if we are given to feeling criticised, we will read criticism into the words. If we are nervous about being rejected, ‘evidence’ confirming this will be easily discovered and if we are anxious about demands being made on us, many messages will read as imperatives. To complicate matters further, our relationship with the specific person who has sent the message and our particular thoughts and feelings about them also informs the way in which we fill in the unknown or unclear parts of the communication. If you want to become a better communicator, it’s important to become more sensitive not only to the body language and nonverbal cues of others, but also to your own.
“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”- John C. Maxwell
Face to face communication boost efficiency, it gets things done quicker. Why beat around the bush? If you want to say something, say it. If you want something to get done, get it done. Face to face communication has real time responsiveness. It allows you to say what you want when you want. It gives us instant feedback and though nonverbal cues we don’t have to worry about miscommunication. It makes things simpler. Why wouldn’t you want that?
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”- Peter F. Drucker
Unlike any other type of communication, face to face communication has all the cues available to us. Words, facial expression, body language, tone of voice, room temperature, room noise, and other people in the room that might be present. If there is something missing in the person’s words, there are other cues that will complement the message, if they are congruent with the words. The message will be more complete and clear when all cues are present. Words just aren’t enough. We never had to learn to process body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. We evolved this capability, it’s innate. But we had to spend years learning to read and write with any level of sophistication. The brain needs and expects these other, more significant channels of information, and when they don’t come, the brain suffers and so does the communication. The problem then goes way beyond just an increased chance for misinterpretation.
The words that are spoken or written are to convey a message, but they don’t get the complete message across. Visuals might be used to aid and help understand the message but it doesn’t capture the true essence of what is being communicated. We need more than this.
When communicating nonverbally with others, we often use facial expressions, which are subtle signals of the larger communication process. We smile, frown, eye roll, pout, scowl, and appear bored or interested. Other facial expressions might indicate excitement or even shock, like opening our eyes or mouth widely. Winking could signal that we’re joking about a remark we made, or even flirting with the person to whom we are speaking. Raising our eyebrows might communicate that we’re surprised or that we don’t understand. The face as a whole indicates much about human moods, our specific, emotional states, such as happiness or sadness. Facial expressions, more than anything, serve as a practical means of communication. Using all the various muscles that precisely control mouth, lips, eyes, nose, forehead and jaw, the human face is estimated to be capable of more than ten thousand different expressions. This versatility makes nonverbal facial expressions extremely efficient and honest. Understanding facial expressions and their meaning is an important part of communication. Facial expressions reflect what a person is thinking or feeling inside. It shows if we are interested, it shows if we care. We need to start caring again.
The expressions we see in the faces of others engage a number of different cognitive processes. Emotional expressions elicit rapid responses, which often imitate the emotion in the observed face. These effects can even occur for faces presented in such a way that the observer is not aware of them. We are also very good at explicitly recognising and describing the emotion being expressed. The emotional expressions presented by faces are not simply reflexive, but also have a communicative component. For example, empathic expressions of pain are not simply a reflexive response to the sight of pain in another, since they are exaggerated when the empathiser knows he or she is being observed. It seems that we want people to know that we are empathic. Of especial importance among facial expressions are ostensive gestures such as an eyebrow flash, which indicates the intention to communicate. These gestures indicate, first, that the sender is to be trusted and, second, that any following signals are of importance to the receiver.
A facial expression can state a lot. A nod indicates understanding, a frown may say: “Please explain that again!” We are able to classify an expression much better when it moves naturally rather than when it is ‘frozen’ in a photograph. In order to gain the advantage of dynamic information, we need to see the expression moving for at least one hundred milliseconds. Visuals just aren’t enough, we need real time expressions, we need more than just an emoji.
“The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as it’s interpreter.”- Marcus Tullius Cicero
It’s easy to underestimate just how important body language is for communication. It’s something we tend to pick up on unconsciously, so we tend to pass over it without taking much notice. But what we see really can change what we hear. So body language contributes an enormous amount to what we pick up in communication and in particular, communication of our emotional states. But such communication is necessary for a sense of community and emotional connection with others as it takes the emotional intelligence to pick up on others’ subtle emotional states to feel genuinely intimate with them. Social media makes it impossible to pick up on body language, it doesn’t just make it harder to communicate, it actually makes it impossible to create a genuine community at all.
Body language can alter or reinforce a person’s message. Confident gestures using the arms and hands, for example, can help to convey an assertiveness which might persuade the listener to comply with a person’s orders, whilst disinterested body language may dissuade one party from continuing a conversation with the other. We use our hands to demonstrate the words we speak. We can shrug our shoulders and, without a word, we’ve just said, “I don’t know.” We can turn our hands over palms up in front of us to say, “I don’t know what else to say. That’s all I’ve got.” Leaning forward into the conversation indicates that this person is interested in hearing what the other person is saying. Leaning back would indicate that we are disinterested or feel too superior. We illustrate through hand movements, it makes the conversation more engaging. We are painting a picture of what we are saying.
“Body language is more powerful than words.”- Ricky Gervais
“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in conversation is read through the body, not the words.”- Deborah Bull
“I can read your body language like a conversation.”- Dom Kennedy
Because your eyes said you were feeling it too.
Face to face communication allows for increased eye contact, which builds increased trust and encourages group members to confide in and co create with their group. It increases creativity. The eyes can indicate interest, attention, and involvement with audience members, while failure to make eye contact can be interpreted as disinterest. Gaze includes looking while talking and listening. The length of a gaze, the frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate are all important cues in nonverbal communication. Eye contact is a sign that we are good listeners. Now what has the eye got to do with listening? When we keep eye contact with the person we are talking to it indicates that we are focused and paying attention. It means that we are actually listening to what the person has to say. That is where the saying “Don’t just listen with your ears” comes from.
Our eyes are a way of building a connection with the other person. This could mean we like that person. We feel comfortable talking and communicating with the person or we are just plain falling in love with the person! Either way, the eyes say it all. A big part of eye contact is building trust. A person with whom we are talking to will be more likely to trust and respect us as eye contact indicates an openness in communication. It shows that they have our attention. The eyes serve as the focal points of the body; they are the first thing we look for in the face. Combined with the fact that we look at things that interest us and away from things that don’t, we show that the other person is at the centre of our attention and interest. All we really want is attention.
The eyes are the messengers of the soul.
We keep our eyes open (or peeled),” we “see eye-to-eye” with some but “turn a blind eye” to others. Some people are “more than meets the eye,” some are “the apple of your eye,” and some “a sight for sore eyes.” You may prefer “not to bat an eye” but be sure that no one can “pull the wool over your eyes.”
“Eye contact: How souls catch fire.”- Yahia Lababidi
“Never, never, never let words come out of your mouth when your eyes are looking down.”- William Bourke Cochrane
“Eye contact is way more intimate than words will ever be.”- Faraaz Kazi
Conversing online or through text messages has led to the loss of important elements in human communication. A face to face conversation involves verbal communication, whose meaning can be affected by a person’s tone of voice. Intonation, volume and the stress placed on particular words can change the recipient’s interpretation of a statement completely. Our tone tells the truth even when our words don’t, even when we’re unaware of that truth ourselves. And it’s our tone to which others respond. Communicating passionately, quietly or angrily can completely impact how people interpret us.
“We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”- Friedrich Nietzsche
Communicating face to face allows us to show our true emotions. We hide behind our screens and pretend that we’re happy, when we’re not. We’re lonely but choose to seek happiness over our mobile phones instead of the people around us. We need to realise that happiness comes from living. We’re not actually living, we are looking for something more and in return receiving something less. Texting allows us to mask our true emotions. We might text someone saying we’re fine when in fact we are not. Emotions create connection.
“The value of emotions comes from sharing them, not just having them.”- Simon Sinek
The ultimate emotion
Many researchers believe that the purpose of laughter is related to establishing and strengthening human connections. Laughter creates attention and occurs when people are feeling comfortable with one another. Consequently, laughter creates a contagious reaction and the more laughter there is, the more bonding occurs within a group of people. When we laugh the brain emits powerful hormones known as endorphins into the blood stream, and these endorphins are responsible for that ‘feel good’ feeling, that afterglow that we experience after a good old laugh. They are responsible for the feelings of happiness and joy we feel when we laugh. And these very same endorphins are responsible for feeling connected with someone, which is why laughter and laughing together fosters and deepens the emotional connection in our relationships and provides an avenue to true intimacy.
Laughter unleashes a sense of joy and overall happiness. And when we share or bring laughter into our relationships it brings with it a sense of belonging, a sense of feeling truly loved and accepted. It creates a bond and sense of specialness. Laughter is not false.
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”- Victor Borge
“There is little success where there is little laughter.”- Andrew Carnegie
“Laughter is the fireworks of the soul.”- John Billings
When face to face communication is not possible, we try to compensate by giving added weight to whatever cues are available to us at the moment. We settle. We also compensate by using symbols as nonverbal cues. We try to replace our facial expression by adding emotions to our texts and emails. We try to add tone of voice to emails by capitalising when we want to yell, or we try using colour, bold and italics so we can emphasise our words. We even create avatars to represent us. Why can’t it just be us?
Emojis are fake emotions.There is no way to replace face to face communication. No smiley face can replace the warmth conveyed by the smiling eyes of a loved one. No cartoon red face can show the genuine embarrassment we show when we blush, no amount of LOLs can tell us when someone is having a belly laughter with tears in his eyes.
We need to be present. We need to actually ‘be in the room.’ We need to share all the conditions within the space we are in. It’s what’s called being ‘in the moment,’ being present. Noise, temperature, smells, everything else that is going on while the communication is taking place. All these little things that surround us is what we call life. And at the moment, we are not living…
We need to take time away from the pings, beeps and chimes to evaluate our and our families’ changing relationship with technology. We need to stop letting technology and social media take over the way we communicate and connect. Really connect.
We need to start living in the ‘NOW.’
“Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is important this very second.”- Greg McKeown
“Communication- the human connection- is the key to personal and career success.”- Paul J. Meyer
“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.”- Tom Ford
“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.”- Robin Sharma
“Cherish your human connections- your relationships with friends and family.”- Barbara Bush
“Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life.”- John A. Piece
I don’t want to reveal everything because i want people to come up with their own ideas, their own experiences.
There is so much more I could say but what I have found is that when people have read the content inside my book they have come up with their own ideas and experiences, sparking conversations that go on and on. After my mum and dad read the story we ended up having a discussion about the topic for over half an hour!
This is exactly what I wanted!! I want to get people talking! Really talking!
With loads and loads of research I was ready to come up with a concept and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to compile all the research I had undertaken and create a story that was designed in a way that could express the need for people to question the connections they think they have. I wanted it to be a book of inspiration full of quotes that would spark this realisation and get people to start interacting with each other. As this would be in my end of year show I wanted to produce something that could be exhibited and really big. I came up with the idea of designing a typographic wall where I would take all the important information from my book turn it into a piece of really aesthetic design.
Here is a pile of notes which I will use along with my research to create a story that will make people realise what they’re missing out on. Although I think Sherry Turkle’s work is very interesting I don’t think it speaks out enough, and that’s what I’m hoping to achieve with my outcome.
In 1995, Sherry Turkle, a professor of the “social studies of science” at M.I.T., published a book about identity in the digital age called “Life on the Screen.” It was a mostly optimistic account, as Turkle celebrated the freedom of online identity. Instead of being constrained by the responsibilities of real life, Turkle argued, people were using the Web to experiment, trying on personalities like pieces of clothing. As one online user told her, “You are who you pretend to be.”
In Turkle’s latest book, “Alone Together,” this optimism is long gone. If the Internet of 1995 was a postmodern playhouse, allowing individuals to engage in unbridled expression, Turkle describes it today as a corporate trap, a ball and chain that keeps us tethered to the tiny screens of our cellphones, tapping out trite messages to stay in touch. She summarizes her new view of things with typical eloquence: “We expect more from technology and less from each other.”
Turkle abruptly pivots to the online world, in which we have “invented ways of being with people that turn them into something close to objects.” She rejects the thesis she embraced 15 years earlier, as she notes that the online world is no longer a space of freedom and reinvention. Instead, we have been trapped by Facebook profiles and Google cache, in which verbs like “delete” and “erase” are mostly metaphorical. Turkle quotes one high school senior who laments the fact that everything he’s written online will always be around, preserved by some omniscient Silicon Valley server. “You can never escape what you did,” he says.
But Turkle isn’t just concerned with the problem of online identity. She seems most upset by the banalities of electronic interaction, as our range of expression is constrained by our gadgets and platforms. We aren’t “happy” anymore: we’re simply a semicolon followed by a parenthesis. Instead of talking on the phone, we send a text; instead of writing wistful letters, we edit our Tumblr blog. (Turkle cites one 23-year-old law student who objects when friends apologize online: “Saying you are sorry as your status . . . that is not an apology. That is saying ‘I’m sorry’ to Facebook.”) And yet, as Turkle notes, these trends show no sign of abating, as people increasingly gravitate toward technologies that allow us to interact while inattentive or absent. Our excuse is always the same — we’d love to talk, but there just isn’t time. Send us an e-mail. We’ll get back to you.
Conversation is Turkle’s organizing principle because so much of what constitutes humanity is threatened when we replace it with electronic communication. Conversation presupposes solitude, for example, because it’s in solitude that we learn to think for ourselves and develop a stable sense of self, which is essential for taking other people as they are. (If we’re unable to be separated from our smartphones, Turkle says, we consume other people “in bits and pieces; it is as though we use them as spare parts to support our fragile selves.”) Through the conversational attention of parents, children acquire a sense of enduring connectedness and a habit of talking about their feelings, rather than simply acting on them. (Turkle believes that regular family conversations help “inoculate” children against bullying.) When you speak to people in person, you’re forced to recognize their full human reality, which is where empathy begins. (A recent study shows a steep decline in empathy, as measured by standard psychological tests, among college students of the smartphone generation.) And conversation carries the risk of boredom, the condition that smartphones have taught us most to fear, which is also the condition in which patience and imagination are developed.
Turkle examines every aspect of conversation — with the self in solitude, with family and friends, with teachers and romantic partners, with colleagues and clients, with the larger polity — and reports on the electronic erosion of each. Facebook, Tinder, MOOCs, compulsive texting, the tyranny of office email, and shallow online social activism all come in for paddling. But the most moving and representative section of the book concerns the demise of family conversation. According to Turkle’s young interviewees, the vicious circle works like this: “Parents give their children phones. Children can’t get their parents’ attention away from their phones, so children take refuge in their own devices. Then, parents use their children’s absorption with phones as permission to have their own phones out as much as they wish.” For Turkle, the onus lies squarely on the parents: “The most realistic way to disrupt this circle is to have parents step up to their responsibilities as mentors.” She acknowledges that this can be difficult; that parents feel afraid of falling behind their children technologically; that conversation with young children takes patience and practice; that it’s easier to demonstrate parental love by snapping lots of pictures and posting them to Facebook. But, unlike in “Alone Together,” where Turkle was content to diagnose, the tone of “Reclaiming Conversation” is therapeutic and hortatory. She calls on parents to understand what’s at stake in family conversations — “the development of trust and self-esteem,” “the capacity for empathy, friendship and intimacy” — and to recognize their own vulnerability to the enchantments of tech. “Accept your vulnerability,” she says. “Remove the temptation.”