The Flight From Conversation
At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done. Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.” Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be.