“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.”

Saint Augustine

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving this week, a holiday Abraham Lincoln designated in the midst of the American Civil War to pause and show gratitude. I look forward to this day every year, and have the sweetest memories of my friends and family coming together.

Something I’m struck by in our modern celebration of this holiday is how it is one of the few times a year that we pause to create time and space for conversation. Families and friends get to dig in and really talk to one another. There is usually a turkey involved, a lot of stuffing, sweet potato and pumpkin pies, and maybe even some football on TV.

We stop the busyness, we look up from our phones, and we talk.

We cook, we laugh, we talk.

We talk.

I never thought I would find talking so remarkable.

Human Connection

Looking forward to this day reminds me of one of the best books I read last year called Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. Sherry Turkle is a professor at MIT and her research looks into psychoanalysis and technology. Have you ever read a book that is so timely that it makes you nauseas? This book is like that. It’s full of powerful observations backed up by anecdotes and statistics of just how detrimental technology, particularly the smartphone, is to relationships

How many times have you been in a conversation that was derailed because someone checked their phone? This occurrence is so commonplace that it is unlikely that anyone noticed. If you did notice, you probably felt a tiny little tingle of disappointment but brushed it off as fast as you felt it. This is modern day emotional resilience.

Do you want to hear something crazy? It’s not just the interrupting phone that is detrimental to conversations — the silent phone kills conversations before they even start.

Sherry Turkle elaborates on this in her chapter called, “The Flight of Conversation,”

“What phones do to in-person conversation is a problem. Studies show that the mere presence of a phone on the table (even a phone turned off) changes what people talk about. If we think we might be interrupted, we keep conversations light, on topics of little controversy or consequence. And conversations with phones on the landscape block empathic connection. If two people are speaking and there is a phone on a nearby desk, each feels less connected to the other than when there is no phone present. Even a silent phone disconnects us.”

What this shows me is the power of human intuition. Pause for a moment to think about the consequences of this idea – if the mere presence of a phone limits your connection with another person, how might that affect your love life, your classroom dynamics, your family dinner time, your work dialogue, your interactions with your kids?

The list goes on, but one thing is certain: we don’t even have a chance. Our ability to connect with another person in every circumstance is hindered by

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

In the midst of the layers and depth she adds to her argument throughout the book, Sherry Turkle asserts, “Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection.” Life is just too short. We need to open our eyes, have deep, honest conversations, and really connect with one another. We need to unleash the energy of language in a way that binds us.

This is a lesson I need to learn again and again despite how strong my convictions are. Check out Sherry Turkle’s book if you have time to reflect and take an honest look at your relationships in the near future.

I’m so thankful you are a part of our community; I hope you have a great weekend and an even better holiday. 

Sherry Turkle on the Narrow Path to Human Connection

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