GET CAUGHT READING: RECLAIMING CONVERSATION
Posted on May 5, 2017 by Wesley under Literary OpEd There I was: coffee in one hand, book in the other, minding my own business. Then, our Marketing Coordinator ambushed me about writing a post for May’s National Get Caught Reading Month. Well played, Kate.
I’m about two-thirds of the way through a fabulously informative book called Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. Turkle’s work challenges the notion that “the more connected we are, the better off we are” by examining how technology and social websites have affected our conversations. Twitter and Facebook may appear to better connect us, but Turkle reveals what we lose when we primarily communicate across screens. Building off of the “three chairs” idea from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Reclaiming Conversation has been a rewarding read full of thought-provoking ideas that advance her panacea for the modern world: “Conversation cures.” Let’s look at a few of the highlights so far.
One Chair for Solitude
For those of you unfamiliar with Thoreau’s Walden, the “three chairs” idea is simple. Thoreau had only three chairs in his cabin at Walden Pond. The single chair represents solitude, a time for Thoreau to be comfortably alone and have the opportunity for self-reflection. Turkle builds on this idea, stating that solitude allows us time for self-discovery:
“IN SOLITUDE WE FIND OURSELVES; WE PREPARE OURSELVES TO COME TO CONVERSATION WITH SOMETHING TO SAY THAT IS AUTHENTIC, OURS.”
However, Turkle makes it clear that recent research has shown that people are uncomfortable if left alone with their thoughts, even for a few minutes. Being “bored” has suddenly become something to panic about and fear.
This is why devices and social media have thrived: we never have to be alone with our thoughts. And here is the problem that Turkle presents: if we’re afraid of being alone, “we struggle to pay attention to ourselves.” Turkle starts with this “first chair” because it is the most personal level. A flight from self-reflection is a flight from conversation, and vice versa. This section helped me ask myself some rather tough questions:
When was the last time I allowed myself to be bored? How much time do I make for my own thoughts? If I have trouble paying attention to myself, will I be able to pay attention to others?