Sherry Turkle: The Dangers of Social Media TED Talk

We were recently listening to Sherry Turkle’s TED talk about the dangers of social media/social networking. Turkle spoke often that we are becoming increasingly “connected, but alone”. The statement resonates and is a frightening reminder that social media participation doesn’t necessarily equate to true connectivity to other people. There’s a comfort in these internet personas: you can be who you want, you can ignore who you want, you can lash out at or praise anyone you want… without ever coming into contact with them. It struck us how this issue is affecting careers today not only in the design industry but in all industries.

When we at Yeh IDeology reflect on all of the clients and searches we've worked on, one of the most crucial characteristics that most all of our clients ask for, regardless if they are a major global corporation, manufacturer, design consultancy or start up, is the ability to communicate with others. Whether it’s being able to communicate across departments, with clients, or within one’s design team, effective communication skills are an essential quality that these employees and future employees must have.

Moreover, Turkle states that the “little devices” that we carry with us during the day, sleep with at night, and use as a form of comfort and companionship, are so “psychologically powerful that they no longer simply affect what we do, they change who we are.” Now that the Internet can be accessed anywhere and everywhere using a simple touch of a button or phone screen, there is no “down time” from our Online Lives. She gives the examples of phones being used underneath the table at a business meeting, under a desk during school, and even while spending time with friends and family. We no longer give our attention towards subjects that are supposed to be meaningful to us, and allow ourselves to be distracted by the “rest of the online world”.

The fear is that we may be losing our most valuable skills: relating to others by empathizing or negotiating, representing and positioning ourselves, building real-life relationships, questioning, collaborating, mentoring, leading, etc. When it comes to communicating with one another, we have trained ourselves to retreat into our Internet personas, instead of reaching out with face-to-face conversation. We tend to see in any industry, that those that have a higher social intelligence tend to rise in the ranks faster because social interpersonal skills becomes one of the key attributes needed to succeed in management.

We pose the following questions to you: Are you noticing that social media is affecting business relationships at work? Is it changing the amount of communication, or lack of communication, with other departments? Is progress within your department suffering because of this? More importantly how is this affecting you directly? How is this affecting your job and your advancement?

The growth of digital spaces is inevitable but physical spaces will never be rendered completely irrelevant. As the two spaces fight for room in our lives the norms in one clash with norms in the other, affecting our ability to thrive in either.