After we aired the segment "Lonely in a Digital Age" on Wednesday, we got lots of responses from listeners. Many agreed with our guest, Sherry Turkle, who argued that our digital-saturated society has sacrificed conversation in favor of connection. However, we also heard from those who believe that digital innovations have allowed them to communicate in ways previously impossible.
Lauren Howie is a 26-year-old leasing consultant in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a speech impediment, and she told us how technology has helped her communicate.
What's your preferred mode of communication: text, phone, face to face, skype, Facebook or email?
I prefer text and gchat.
Tell me about your problems communicating before technology helped you out.
I suffer from stuttering and blocking. It was at its worst ages 8 to 16. Sometimes saying my own name was difficult. When AOL instant messenger became available I was finally able to carry on a conversation without the threat of humiliation. I could say anything I wanted without fear of being paralyzed mid-sentence. Then texting was popular and it is still my preferred method of communicating. It's fool proof for me. I can always say what I need to without fear of someone knowing about my speech impediments.
You said on Twitter that now technology is like a "crutch." What do you mean by that?
I rely on text, gchat and Facebook too much. The art of the phone conversation has been lost on me. I do chat on the phone with a select few but it's such a small number now compared to years ago when a phone call was all we had. I've come so far with my speech issues. I'm at a point I used to dream about. However, I've opted for fast fingers instead of my new found voice.
Do you ever feel lonely after communicating with someone digitally?
Actually I do. When I text and gchat my friends all day and then I put my phone down at night it becomes apparent that I've actually been alone the whole time. I live alone in a new city so I don't have a solid group of friends I see on a regular basis.
Are social media and smartphones bringing us closer together or making us more lonely?
I think ultimately they make us lonelier. We rely on these things to connect us but we're not really making true connections. It provides a false sense of community that often leaves you with an empty feeling.
What do you think? Do you have a story like Lauren's? Has digital technology enhanced or stunted your ability to communicate?