Book Review - Reclaiming Conversation - Personal Development

I recently completed reading Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle. Sherry’s position is that the classic, face-to-face conversation is critical to our personal development and communication, but we are dangerously close to abandoning conversation for the lure of digital efficiency and control.

This is part 1/4, see all the parts below:

  1. Personal Development
  2. Family Development
  3. Professional Development
  4. The Illusion of Multitasking Development

Some highlights which particularly resonated with me:

Personal development

The limitations of web-surfing as a means of unwinding or relaxing:

We have convinced ourselves that surfing the web is the same as daydreaming. That it provides the same space for self-reflection. It doesn’t.

On how we sabotage ourselves by cannibalizing our “spare” time:

We deny ourselves the benefits of solitude because we see the time it requires as a resource to exploit.

Why we like to apologize via text or email:

It has always been hard to sit down and say you’re sorry when you’ve made a mistake… A face-to-face apology is an occasion to practice empathic skills.

On the value of “pushing through” the boring parts of a conversation rather than tuning out or turning to your phone:

In work, love, and friendship, relationships of mutuality depend on listening to what might be boring to you but is of interest to someone else.

The trap of the “sharing” generation:

If we don’t know who we are when we are alone, we turn to other people to support our sense of self.

The trap of assuming everything offered by technology is better, or a fix to a problem:

Just because technology can help us solve a “problem” doesn’t mean it was a problem in the first place.

Our reliance on outside tools and systems to find what we need, when we need it, diminishes our capacity for internalizing knowledge and skills:

But they continue to skip what this teacher calls “basic content,” thinking that this is something the web will fill them in on—someday. The web is their “information prosthetic” and they see no cost to having one.

Basic reliance on facts is inadequate for deep thinking:

You need to have a strong background of facts and concepts on board before you know you need them. We think with what we know; we use what we know to ask new questions.

A trend among young doctors to rely heavily on external sources for patient diagnosis:

But will this “just-in-time” and “just enough” information teach young doctors to organize their own ideas and draw their own conclusions?

We become blind to how our devices are changing us:

But if we don’t “see” our devices, we are less likely to register the effect they are having on us.

How technology helps us “work” but degrades our capacity for deep thought:

“The technology makes me more productive, but I know the quality of my thinking suffers.” It’s a telling formulation. What she is saying is that technology makes her feel more productive despite a lower quality of thought.

The downside of always “sharing” your life with friends:

It means we’ll always choose the movie they’d choose and won’t choose the movie we want to see if they’d make fun of it.

How our life online makes our offline selves “dumber”:

We come to online life with the expectation that we can ask a question and get an almost immediate answer. In order to meet our expectations, we begin to ask simpler questions. We end up dumbing down our communications and this makes it harder to approach complex problems.

We end up treating our fellow humans like a computer or an app:

Tutored by technology, we become reactive and transactional in our exchanges because this is what technology makes easy.

We diminish our own capacity for reason and argument, and surrender our rights to a considered opinion:

People don’t want to post opinions on social media that they fear their followers will disagree with.

How to start engaging in real conversation:

Obey the seven-minute rule. This is the rule, suggested to me by a college junior, that grows out of the observation that it takes at least seven minutes to see how a conversation is going to unfold. The rule is that you have to let it unfold and not go to your phone before those seven minutes pass… Conversation, like life, has silences and boring bits. This bears repeating: It is often in the moments when we stumble and hesitate and fall silent that we reveal ourselves to each other. Digital communication can lead us to an edited life. We should not forget that an unedited life is also worth living.

Our sad reliance on our mobile phones:

It used to be that we imagined our mobile phones were there so that we could talk to each other. Now we want our mobile phones to talk to us.