It’s official. We’re all screwed. Well, maybe.
Recently I listened to something on National Public Radio that really reminded me of the Solitude chapter from Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation. On the radio segment, the interviewer was talking to the police chief of a Chicago precinct about new recruits. The chief said he’d noticed something in the younger men and women, that they had a much more difficult time connecting with civilians and presenting themselves as comfortable and trustworthy in a conversation (a very important skill for a cop to posses) than the older cops. As a new exercise, he set all the new recruits loose in a mall wearing civilian clothes and had them strike up conversations with random people. The chief then watched their interactions and tried to help them with their body language and tone of voice. After the fact, the interviewer discussed the new training tactic with the recruits to find out how they felt about it. Many of them discussed feeling awkward and bored during the exercise, not sure what to do with themselves in moments of uncertainty.
I was reminded of that segment as I read Turkle’s description of the importance of solitude and self-reflection on not only intellectual development, but social development as well. She discusses how important is to have time for yourself in order to be able to truly understand and empathize with others. These key moments of silence and reflection are, however, being replaced by cellphones and tablets instead. Turkle says that “knowing we have someplace else to go in a moment of boredom leaves us less experienced at exploring our inner lives and therefore more likely to want the stimulation of what is on our phones” (Turkle, 68). She discusses how this is impacting children and their interactions with themselves and the children around them.
As I write this, I am looking outside my apartment window at the groups of children playing below and I think to myself, do these kids have cellphones? In all honesty, I feel like the answer is no. I don’t exactly live in the cream of the crop apartment complex, so I assume many of these children won’t have phones till they’re at least teenagers. This leads me to think Turkle might be missing something in this equation, and I think it has to do with income. Do children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds experience this phenomenon on a lesser scale? I’m not sure, but I have my suspicions based on the loud play occurring outside my window right this second. I guess I’ll have to keep reading the book to find out more about this crisis of solitude, self-reflection, and the almighty iPhone.