Sherry Turkle is a professor and psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her specialty is the study of the relationship between people and machines. Turkle’s latest book carries somewhat of an indictment beginning with its very title, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. In a recent interview, she responded to a question about how social media and technology are negatively affecting human relationships (Mark Fischetti “The Networked Primate” Scientific American, September 2014, pp. 83–85):
“People start to view other people in part as objects.” (p. 84)
Turkle’s observation speaks to the danger social media and technology present to us. If we do not maintain our internal moral compass, our sense of ethical standards, our fundamental approach to relationships, then we will transition to a lesser place where people are not people, but things.
In the physical world some can believe the façade that the more money and material things I have, the better I am as a person. The person who dies with the most money and things wins. That same façade presents in social media in a different form. The form it takes is that the more tweets, likes, comments, friends, views, followers, or connections I have, the better I am as a person.
The myths of the physical world have invaded the virtual world. It is that very dynamic that subtly causes us to see people as objects instead of people, and that is what we must guard against. Remember, anytime I view a person for what he or she is instead of for who he or she is, then everyone loses.