Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Fear of Solitude as a Cause of Texting

Downtown Monroe
M.I.T.'s Sherry Turkle, in her brilliant Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, argues for solitude as the foundation of authentic community. Turkle dedicates an entire chapter to this, and opens it with a quote from actor and comedian Louis C.K. He writes:

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there. That’s just being a person...

Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty, forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone. It’s down there. And sometimes when things clear away and you’re not watching and you’re in your car and you start going, Ooh, here it comes that I’m alone, like it starts to visit on you just like this sadness. Life is tremendously sad. . . . 

That’s why we text and drive. Pretty much 100 percent of people driving are texting. And they’re killing and murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking their life and ruining another because they don’t want to be alone for a second. . . " (Turkle, pp. 59-60)

Why so much texting? One cause is: the fear of solitude. The fear of insignificance. The fear of being forgotten. Insecurity of the self. Loss of identity. The need for authentic community, which will not be achieved via texting.

I write about solitary praying in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.