The Paradox of Being Alone Together

One of the justifications for overuse of communication technology is that it saves time and increases contacts with others. Ever faster and efficient machines supposedly produce more possibilities to connect in less time, thus leaving more time for leisure.

However, this rationale does not always ring true. New phones and gadgets only encourage greater speed and volume. People begin to think in ever bigger terms. Instead of communicating with a small circle of intimate friends, they now convince themselves that they have a vast network of contacts who have “friended” them and must be cultivated at a distance often by conveying a distorted image of oneself.

This creates the postmodern paradox that psychologist Sherry Turkle calls Subscription8.113 The Paradox of Being Alone Togetherbeing “alone together.” Far from uniting people, machines tend to separate them. She claims the result is a situation where people are “each in their own rooms, each on a networked computer or mobile device. We go online because we are busy but end up spending more time with technology and less with each other. We defend connectivity as a way to be close, even as we effectively hide from each other.” (Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, New York, Basic Books, 2011, p. 281).


  • Tom Varga

    I agree.  The strength of interpersonal relationships and one to one communication has been strained, especially over the last few decades.
    During the early 1920’s, we moved from our “front porches” indoors to listen to a new device, – radio.  As a result, we removed ourselves from our “neighbors” in the community – away from community.  The introduction of television [ with multiple televisions in most bedrooms]  during the latter half of the 20th Century, took us from a “family” to isolated individuals during any given day.  With the advent of cellular devices, interpersonal dialogue, concerning topics of human value, become extinct.  Purposeful discussion is very necessary to turn the tide to a more humane existence.  I wish to see others from my front porch once again.  

  • Markserafino

    This is so evident today in the business world. In the course of a year, I attend several large industry conferences within 1000 or more attendees. It is quite a paradox to be sitting at a table with a group of industry peers for lunch and everyone at the table is completely engaged in their smart phones, while carrying on the same meaningless, topical conversations in person as they are in text. This happens even when we are in time specific business to business meetings where as a company we have spent days preparing to make a business presentation and our audience is absorbed in their tablet or smart phone.

    In years past, I tried to initiate true conversations in the hopes of formulating real ideas or opinions from my peers that I could use in my own business development, however I have come to realize that the only thing anyone is interested in is sports, movies or television. I truly miss meaningful conversation.