At Cambridge, Arianna Huffington was moved by Benjamin Disraeli’s 1845 novel, Sybil, which raised awareness of the British poor and led to much needed social reforms. Huffington has admired writers and thinkers who attempt to showcase cultural predicaments in order to effect change.
Recently, she was the moderator of a panel discussion with the director and Frank Grillo and Marc Jacobs, two cast members of Disconnect. Written by Andrew Stern and directed by Henry-Alex Rubin, the film also stars Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgård, and Michael Nyqvist. Disconnect “interweaves three stories, each involving characters whose lives have reached a crisis exacerbated by their dependence on technology at the expense of real human connection.” Henry-Alex Rubin stated during the Q & A that many people “use the Internet as medication, to dull pain and disappointments. One thing leads to another and, before you know it, you’re missing your own life.
Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, noted in a TEDTalk that although people are together, as at a dinner, they are also disconnected via mobile devices which transport them elsewhere. Turkle explains that we are substituting one thing for another: “From social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship,” she says. As a result, “we slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us feel less alone,” but “actually it’s the opposite that’s true.”
Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina and author of Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become states that our online habits may rewire our neural pathways. “And so, she says, your answer to questions like ‘how much time do you typically spend with others?’ and ‘when you do, how connected and attuned to them do you feel?’ can in fact ‘reveal our biological capacity to connect.’ And, the research shows, by changing the ways you connect, you can change your capacity to connect.”
This is something which we might ponder when rethinking our lives at the “preretirement” stage. We have so very much on our plates with work, relocation — or not, family, friends, dating if we so choose, continued or new work, volunteering or not, etc. How does social media fit into our personal blueprint for the future?