3. According to Turkle, we "hide as much as [we] show" in text messages and email, presenting ourselves "as [we] wish to be 'seen"' (paragraph 38). Is this so different from what we do in most of our writing? How do you present yourself in your academic writing, and how does that presentation differ from what you do in text messages or email?
4. Is digital communication good or bad-or both? Read Chapter 13, which summarizes both sides of that discus- sion. Which side (or sides) do you come down on? Where
do you think Turkle stands? 5. Turkle says she sees "a vulnerability" in those who prefer
social media to phone calls or face-to-face communication: "I see a vulnerability in this generation, so quick to say, 'Please don't call"' (paragraph 30). Write an essay about your own views on communicating with social media, draw- ing upon this and other readings in the chapter for ideas to consider, to question, and to support your view.
I Had a Nice Time with You Tonight.
On the App.
LAsT SuNDAY, I spent a lazy afternoon with my boyfriend. We chatted while I made brunch, discussed the books we were reading, laughed at some cat pictures and then settled down with dinner, before bidding each other good night.
We did all of this despite living more than 3,000 miles apart, thanks to smartphone applications and services that helped to collapse time and space. Video chat apps like Google Hangouts, Face Time and Skype, of course, already make it possible to see and talk to one another in real time. But those formats can be awkward and require both parties to coordinate a time to talk and find someplace quiet with a decent Internet connection-a challenge with busy schedules in different time zones.
I prefer to use applications that already figure into my daily routine, like Google's instant-messaging application, Gchat, as
]ENNA WoRTHAM writes about technology for the New York Times.
Her work also has appeared in Bust magazine, Vogue, and Wired,
and she is a cofounder of the zine Girl Crush. Her Twitter handle
is @jennydeluxe. This column first appeared in the New York Times
on April 6, 2014.
well as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, lnstagram and Snapchat. This way, we can talk about travel plans while I'm waiting for the train or talk about what he's making for dinner while I'm
at work. I've found that all of my conversational habits have matured
beyond the static phone dates of yore. We are now in constant and continuous communication with our friends, co-workers and family over the course of a day. These interactions can help us feel physically close, even if they happen through a screen.
And because this kind of communication is less formal than 'i
a phone call or an email, it feels more like the ki.nd of cas~al conversation you might have over a meal or whtle watchmg television together. These conversations can also be infused with a lot more fun than a regular text message, because they often include cutesy features that let you add digital doodles to video messages, or send virtual kisses or cartoon characters.
The downside is that it can be hard to juggle all the various ways to communicate. But a modem kind of application, includ- ing one that we were experimenting with on that lazy Sunday, combines all those interactions-and is designed with couples in mind. This focus on couples is relatively new. The online and mobile dating industry has built many tools and services for single people who are looking for romantic partners and new fri~nds. They've evolved from websites like Match.com and OKCuptd .to mobile apps like Tinder that let people swipe through potenttal
dates and select the ones that pique their interest. But in recent months, several entrepreneurs have been shift-
ing their attention to people after they meet a mate. "Tech entrepreneurs, long obsessed with making apps to help
you find a relationship, have now begun trying to solve the problem of staying happy in one," wrote Ann Friedm~n on The Cut, a blog of New York magazine. Ms. Friedman pomts to
I Had a Nice Time with You Tonight. On the App .
apps like Avocado, Couple and Between as smartphone apps that "keep you close with your partner through the power of a smartphone alone."
The application that my boyfriend and I were using, called You & Me, is scheduled for public release in early May. It was created by the founders of the online dating site HowAboutWe, which initially built its business around people proposing dates- as in, "How about we go to a trivia night?"-as a means for finding matches. The original HowAboutWe dating service was started in 2010 and has attracted two million users to date.
But it had a business-model problem, said Aaron Schildkrout, 10 one of the founders of How About We. The site lost users-and potential customers-once they were in a relationship. "The couples market is huge," he said. He and his business partner were getting feedback from "couples who had met on the service but couldn't use it anymore" and decided to build an application "to facilitate communication and interaction."
The new You & Me application lets two people send pho- tographs and voice messages and play a selfie-exchanging game called "Halfsie."
I tested an early version for a few weeks. When I described it to others, they often furrowed their brows and asked me whether people really needed yet another application to talk to people they are closest to.
Sherry Turkle, the author of Alone Together, says she believes that using an application in place of real-world, face-to-face interactions is having a detrimental effect on how we prioritize offline communication and, potentially, on our ability to inter- act even when we aren't relying on technology as a mediator.
"We've given ourselves something so gratifying that we can forget other ways we can communicate," she said. "What starts out being better than nothing becomes better than anything."
3 9 5
see Ms. T urkle, who is researching the impact of technol- 15 Chapter 2 for 1 d
ways to blend ogy on communication, said techno ogy-saturate types the author·s could "forget what a face-to-face interaction can do." words with
your own. She says she is not opposed to messaging applications,
but she cautions that their most frequent users should be aware
of the potential impact. In my experience, however, I've found the opposite to be
true, especially as more and more of my daily interactions with friends, colleagues and family happen through a screen. If any- thing, the pervasiveness of technology in my life has heightened
my desire for actual one-on-one meetings. Anyone who spends much time online and on a smartphone
knows that it's no substitute for the real thing-it's just an appe- tizer that can delight and satisfy until the main course arrives. But that satisfaction is real. Although I am using a vast array of apps to deal with a real challenge-trying to date someone who lives on a different continent-they still hold their appeal when that distance is erased. Even when we're both in the same city for an extended time, we still use them, albeit to a lesser degree and not to the detriment of spending actual time together.
In many cases, adding the Internet to the mix can strengthen a relationship over all, because online interactions have their own kind of entertaining rapport that can coexist with their
offline counterparts. In her blog post, Ms. Friedman pointed to a February study
from the Pew Research Center's Internet Research project that surveyed 2,252 adults about their digital habits in relationships. Seventy-four percent of the couples surveyed reported that the Internet had had a positive impact on their relationship. In addition, 41 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in serious relation- ships said they felt closer to their partner because of online or
I Had a Nice Time with You Tonight. On the App.
Mr. Schildkrout, at You & Me, hopes to appeal to people zo who want to build their relationships through the screen as well as beyond it. Although the couples app will be free, he says, the company may eventually add features that let their users ask each other out on prepackaged evenings or events sold through the application. "At the end of the day," Mr. Schildkrout said, "technology is where some of the most beautiful interactions happen and deepen."
The jury is still out on whether You & Me will replace the swath of services we already use, but for what it's worth, I think that Mr. Schildkrout is right. I've had some of my most emo- tionally intimate and honest conversations with friends and romantic partners on mobile devices. And while virtual chats and hugs will never be the same as their real-world counterparts, they can come awfully close in a pinch.
"I Had a Nice Time with You Tonight. On the App," by Jenna Wortham. From Tl!e New York Times, April 6, 2014. © 2014 The New York Times. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited.
Joining the Conversation
1. How would you summarize Jenna Wortham's attitude about using apps to communicate with her boyfriend and others? What benefits does she see, and what limitations?
2. Wortham begins her piece with a short narrative about "a lazy afternoon" with her boyfriend. Why is this an effective way to begin this essay? How else might the piece have begun?
3. So what? Who cares? Where in this piece does Wortham explain why her argument matters? Has she persuaded you- and if not, why not?
4. Sherry Turkle writes (pp. 373-92) that young women often "prefer to deal with strong feelings from the safe haven of the Net" and that doing so provides "an alternative to processing emotions in real time." What do you think Wortham would
say to that? 5. What if Romeo and Juliet had to communicate using only
an app? What about Samson and Delilah? Or Roosevelt and Churchill? How would the technology have affected their conversations? Write an essay developing your own argu- ment about the larger effects of digital media, citing your experiences as well as ideas from readings in this chapter.
Small Change: Why the Revolution
Will Not Be Tweeted
AT FOUR-THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON on Monday, February 1, 1960, four college students sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth's in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. They were freshmen at North Carolina A. & T., a black college a mile or so away.
"I'd like a cup of coffee, please," one of the four, Ezell Blair, said to the waitress.
"We don't serve Negroes here," she replied. The Woolworth's lunch counter was a long L-shaped bar
that could seat sixty-six people, with a standup snack bar at one end. The seats were for whites. The snack bar was for blacks. Another employee, a black woman who worked at the steam
MALCOLM GLADWELL writes for the New Yorker and was named one of
Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2005. His best-selling
books include The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Differ-
ence (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking (2005),
Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), and David and Goliath: Underdogs,
Misfits, and the Art of Battling (2013 ). This essay first appeared in the
New Yorker on October 14, 2010.