Weaving the Web

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A lot like Sherry Turkle from her brilliant connected, but alone? TED talk, my mother is a psychologist but also a total hippie who places a flower on top of the microwave to reduce electronic waves being transmitted, charges her phone down the stairs so she doesn’t develop brain cancer, fights with me for having my phone on the table, yet has her iPad attached to her hip.

I’ve always found my mum to be quite contradictory to her own demands, but she is a mum after all right? (Do what I say, not what I do type of thing). However, Sherry’s talk made me realise that perhaps my mum doesn’t know that she is in fact paradoxical to her own believes.

My mum takes comfort in knowing that she is not using the internet to alienate herself but rather to help others to connect again, to do better and be better. She only shares links to greater goods of charities, budda quotes, she shares videos of the homeless being fed and animals being rescued, she tags her friends in friendship memes and posts hundreds of photos inviting internet users to go outside. So does that make it okay for her ‘right’ use of the internet?

I started thinking about Black-and-White Mary, a philosophy by a property dualist that believes that physicalist and functionalist stories about the mind cannot capture the qualitative features of experience. Ideology plays a great role in technology because it controls the information being given, it manipulates us into thinking we are feeling something when in reality, we are not. Are we beginning to exchange the real emotional for the fictional?

My mum feels it is okay for her to spend her time online because she has already experienced things that I have not, she wants me to live in the present and she is encouraging others to do the same by living in her past and sharing her thoughts online now. That may be why my grandparents refuse to learn about the internet, or why they would most likely reject the idea of the sociable robots that Sherry refers to, because in reality it would be like telling them we don’t have the time or patience to sit and talk to them now, but here is something to take your mind of it.

In truth we do turn to technology when we are most vulnerable, and this is where we start to lose our intimacy because we believe that we can turn our attention wherever we want and divert our thoughts and feelings. It’s not always because we post something on Facebook that we are heard, and that will make us feel even more unnoticed. So I applaud my mother and my grandparents for having raised me in a house that encourages me to share my problems with them, not with the web. I admire my grandparents for not being scared of being lonely, embracing the fact that they don’t need technology to feel happy and connected, sure a visit or two would be good, but sometimes it doesn’t happen they get it, they just rather experience things for themselves rather than over a screen.

‘Write me a letter that I can keep, that I can drip coffee on and smell the dust when I pull it out in a few years, I want to read your handwriting and picture you thinking about what to write. Anyone can buy the internet but not everyone can buy my thoughts’ – Terezina Marcucci, 85 year old grandmother and best woman I know.

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