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Resolving Double Trouble



If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will always be lonely.” When I first heard this said, I had one of those ‘I could have said that!’ moments. It’s been a while, and sadly I am seeing justifiable causes for this concern rising exponentially.


When making that particular statement, Sociologist Sherry Turkle was referring to the findings from her research on technology and relationships - research from which her data showed our ever increasing dependency on social media. Her findings exposed disturbingly adverse effects on both our emotional intelligence and our relationships, as well as the fact that people were increasingly seeking to meet the need for human connection through social media – a human need that could never be completely fulfilled that way. Turkle was not just talking about youngsters, but parents, leaders, all of us too. More than a decade later her findings are more relevant than ever, but thankfully we are now discussing these concerns more openly (and at the risk of stating the obvious,  one cannot solve a problem without first acknowledging its existence.)


Our phones and social media are losing any proportionate place in our lives, as we now increasingly have the need to ‘connect’ every few minutes. The technological advances that have given us so much freedom and other advantages are now ‘taking over’ in really unhealthy ways. A multitude of recent studies repeatedly confirm Turkle’s findings, although interestingly, Turkle herself is not against technology or social media per se, she just advocates putting it in proper perspective. She clarified by concluding that we – and our children – used to have thoughts such as, ‘I feel …..(fill in the space) so I want to make a call.” Now however, we are more likely to be driven by the (oft-subconscious) thought; “I want to feel ……so I need to check my phone/send a text/scroll….

 

Hooked as most of us now are, we are more driven by a lack of impulse-control than we’d like to admit – which is troublesome enough on its own. But with the rising -some would say runaway- use of AI we potentially have ‘double trouble’; If our compulsion with 24/7 technology tools continues to escalate, our emotional autonomy, relationship and collaborative skills and capacity for insight will all ultimately atrophy, reducing our ability to meet the challenges of AI in a way that actually serves us. Ultimately we risk losing our human agency altogether. Science fiction? Maybe - maybe not.

 

But if we go back to Turkle’s urging to put all technology into perspective – I think we can prevent or even resolve this ‘double trouble’ and create a future that is in our control.  We start by recognizing that we have many needs technology cannot fulfill and capacities it cannot grow for us, including the capacity to be alone - to tune into ourself and to be comfortable with that person, as well as the capacity to tune into others and build true connection. Both of these require emotional agency – and emotional intelligence, the development of which is not only possible in just about all of us, but quite doable. In the words of a colleague: ‘It’s not just about feeling better, it’s about getting better at feeling.”

 



If you have children in your lives and would like to explore this issue more deeply, we invite you to join us for Tuned-In Parent, an online program with live group coaching, coming in May 2024. If you are interested, please contact us here. 

 


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