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Is Social Media Actually Making Us Less Connected?

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LONG BEACH, Calif. Checking email during meetings. Shopping on your smartphone in the middle of class. Texting at funerals. These are a few of the examples that MIT professor Sherry Turkle offered during her TEDTalk on Thursday, in which she argued that technology is taking us places we don't want to go.

Turkle, a psychologist who leads MIT's Initiative on Technology and Self, believes that while our constant communication and social media engagement does make us more connected, it's coming at the sacrifice of real conversation.

And she thinks that will have some serious consequences for our relationships, our self-perceptions and our emotions.

One major issue, she said, is that when we text, email or post to a social networking site, we re able to project ourselves as we want to be seen. We get to edit, we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch.

Inversely, Turkle notes that a face-to-face conversation takes place in real time and you can t control what you re going to say.

Further, with our phones at our constant disposal, Turkle says we re only paying attention to the things we want to pay attention to. And that leaves us increasingly disconnected from our friends, family and co-workers as we simply turn to our devices when a conversation no longer interests us.

This creates a situation that Turkle said makes us, expect more from technology and less from each other. In the long run, she thinks technology is ultimately headed towards creating a Siri-like program that can offer companionship without the demands of friendship.

There's certainly plenty of data that supports Turkle's argument. Surveys showing that we re increasingly texting and social networking during meal time or in the bedroom have become commonplace.

But what's to be done about it? Turkle isn't calling for a return to the dark ages of pre-smartphone life. Rather, she says it's time for us to have a more self-aware relationship with technology. And in turn, we should do things like create sacred places at home and at work where we leave the devices out.

Turkle's remarks drew an emphatic standing ovation from the TED crowd. But we want to know what you think: Does technology threaten the quality of our relationships and personal development, or are such fears an overblown perception of a generation that didn t grow up with digital? Let us know in the comments.

More About: psychology, Social Media, TED

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