Goodness gracious, Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation becomes more applicable to our political climate by the second. Her chapter on the public square brings “online activism” and our dwindling sense of privacy into the picture. I particularly agreed with the beginning of the chapter when Turkle is talking about “friendship politics” or when you “go on a website, you send in your money [and] that satisfied your requirement for being in the conversation” (Turkle, 295). Turkle’s observation is a keen one, this day and age people legitimately feel like they’ve performed some sort of heroic act purely by posting “We Love Paris” on their Instagram after the recent terrorist attacks. When the truth is, all they’ve done is place an ill-fitted band aid over their own guilt.
Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely horrible about this. The biggest hypocrite on the planet. Oh, I’m one of them all right, the internet activists. I put this persona up online, full of righteous indignation about everything that’s truly screwed up in the world. Then I get mad about it and run away from it all, thinking the whole while about how doomed the world is and how we should give up on humans and just go ahead and continue trashing the planet to our own demise. Then I hear about some new unjust something or other, snap out of it, and put my angst back online. When I’ve finished posting, I feel like I’m making a difference and I think, now I’m motivated and am really gonna go out there and help fix this. Time goes by and what do you know, I’ve completely forgotten all about my sad little philanthropic dreams. Turkle may as well have been talking about me when she said, “Hers is a story about activity at a frantic pace: a response to a crisis, followed by disillusion” (Turkle, 298).
I read a study once on motivation and follow through. In it, there were two groups of people. Both groups wrote down something tangible they wanted to accomplish, such as learning how to play an instrument. The first group told someone about what they wanted to learn, while the second was told to keep silent about the new endeavor. After a few weeks, the people in the second group had been working on reaching their goals exponentially more than those in the first group. According to the directors of the study, the first group felt as if they had already accomplished their goal simply by telling it to someone else. Now I wonder, in a world where we tell each other everything, what does this mean for our future?