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Reclaiming Conversation

1 minute read

There are many benefits to texting, including faster communication and avoidance of awkward interactions. But in her new book, MIT researcher Sherry Turkle argues that relying too much on virtual messaging is killing our human relationships. There are examples aplenty: teens using phones under the table (instead of talking to their parents), 20-somethings who instant-message at work (instead of mingling with co-workers) and people of all ages now opting to text with friends instead of meeting up. Among college students, such practices led to a 40% decline in empathy, according to one study Turkle cites. “We forget what we miss when we can see someone else’s reaction, their expressions, their tone,” she tells TIME. Yet even as we become less sensitive, we’re also craving contact more than ever. In another study, students who were asked to sit alone without their phones for 15 minutes–severing the line of constant communication–opted for mild electric shock rather than meditation in solitude, which Turkle finds alarming. “I’m not anti-texting,” she says. “I’m pro-conversation.”


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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com