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.

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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).