Is technology at work taking the humanity out of our personal relationships?

Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together talks about how workplace IT leads us to treat friends and family like emails.

...for individuals to get away from work, even when on holiday.

"A vacation usually means working from someplace picturesque," Turkle writes in Alone Together, with workers expected to stay online because technology means they can.

"They cannot take a vacation without bringing the office with them; their office is on their cell phone."

Technology appeals to human weakness

Turkle believes we allow technology to have such an influence over our lives and come between our most important human relationships because it appeals to key human vulnerabilities.

"We are lonely but we are fearful of intimacy," Turkle writes. "Digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship."

The ability to be constantly in contact with a plethora of social and professional networks creates a sense of togetherness, but Turkle argues that in reality our desire to stay connected online can reduce our ability to connect in the real world.

Digital connections

Do electronic communications just provide the illusion of real relationships?
Photo: Shutterstock

When people go into their online world they may find it easier than facing reality, she said, adding: "We miss out on the difficulties but we also miss out on the joys of being with each other."

Mobile technology, for example, gives people the option to opt out of human relationships. At socially difficult moments, people can hide behind their smartphones, removing the expectations on them to interact.

"Technology is seductive, there is a temptation to go away into that zone," said Turkle, who believes this creates particular problems for young people as they can avoid difficult social situations that may help them develop the communication skills they need to succeed in the workplace and in future life.

"At a 15-year-old's birthday party, before Facebook, it was very hard because the 15-year-olds had to do something they didn't want to do - they had to talk to each other. The 15-year-olds would struggle, but then finally they do it - they are talking to each other. By the end of the party the 15-year-olds are closer to being 16," she said.

"Now, at a 15-year-old's party, they can get away with not talking to each other because they're all on Facebook. They've all sort of found a way to not have to be with each other."

"It's as simple as that," she added. "When something hard comes up we have found...

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