Together, Yet Alone

Look at them, this is just not right. It wasn’t always like this, no, this is a new sickenss. Everyone’s together, all alone.

No, this was not the beginning of a horror movie, but in fact the beginning of what was a terrifying, true, and beautifully created commercial by SONOS. I first saw this during the Grammy’s which I believed was a brilliant marketing tactic, and what also sparked a fascinating idea and conversation surrounding the blackhole that social media and technology has led us into.

This past week I was having dinner with a friend whom I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with in quite some time. We had to make it quick because we both had class right after so I knew I wanted to make sure I was fully present during dinner as to not waste the limited time we had together. Right when we sat down I flipped my phone over as to not even be tempted to look at the unimportant notifications I would be receiving in the next hour, but for the full time we were together she was constantly checking her text messages, scrolling through her Instagram, and refreshing her mailbox.

This has become such an issue that a beautiful series was done about portraits-holding-devices-removed-eric-pickersgill-33.jpghow this addiction to technology and notifications is ruining relationships. Which begs the question, is social media actually helping connect us or tear us apart? Sure we are able to keep in touch with that kid we met at “band camp”six years ago, but we are so focus on his pictures of his new dog that we are paying attention to our dinner conversation with our parents. We have a hard time separating urgent notifications from quick texts we can send to our friends. This difficulty in distinguishing important from non-important has caused this illness of silence and ever increasing limiting ability to interact in person.

What this commercial questions is what stops this silence? There answer is music. And while to some extent I believe it is a universal language that brings us together, even this isn’t a time where we are disconnected. We are constantly Shazaming songs we like so that we are download it and listen to it alone later. Or if we are at a concert we are Snapchat storying or taking pictures for our Instagram later. Is there any sacred place where technology and social media aren’t a constant interruption?

For me there is one. It’s the dinner table with my family where there is an unspoken rule that we must all turn our phones off and not touch them during dinner. It is the one space where I am almost-fully present, undistracted, and truly together. Not to say I don’t think about the texts or emails I am missing in the moment, but I try to block out this nagging voice in my head about my phone. What’s most interesting is that while my sister and I feel this tie to our phones, my parents never really think about it. Which begs the question of how much the generation below us will feel tied and enslaved to their phones.

Which brings us back to this idea that even when we are together we are alone. Have these devices and applications made us so self-centered and self-absorbed that we believe these virtual lives are more important than our physical interactions? That the number of likes we get is more important than the number of people who actually like you? That when you’re checking up on your friends, the friends next to you are losing interest in this friendship? Our real connections are those in real life, not by commenting. Sure, social media has been able to connect us in ways never before. We are able to care and help for others through the ability to reach out within seconds, but is also takes us away from the people who are sometimes right in front of us.

I share therefore I am. We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings even as we’re having them. — Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?


Are the greatest moments of our lives ever going to be captures in a picture, a tweet, or a status? So how can we feel more together and less alone? Perhaps a digital detox wouldn’t be the worst for any of us. Or picking up Sherry Turkle’s book Together Alone. But easily  suggestion is to be cognizant of your attention to your phone during important moments because you may miss them with your head down. And the next time you get lunch or dinner with a friend, flip your phone over, put it on silent, and be present. It’s better to be truly together, than together and alone.





  1. We’ll watch Turkle’s TED talk later in the semester. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with it, but I think you take a more balanced approach than she does. Social media isn’t bad, but we do need to put it away and make time for “face-to-face” relationships. I didn’t say “real” relationships, because social media relationships can be real but they are different.

  2. I liked this post because I think you describe something that almost everyone nowadays has to deal with. Personally, I’ve tried to be cognizant of when it is and isn’t appropriate to look at my phone while with others. It can be challenging and/or frustrating when those around you don’t necessarily hold the same views as you about this. What I wonder about is how children these days, who grow up with technology always being within arm’s reach (and sometimes used as a pacifier at the dinner table), will end up behaving as adults. I think we’re all in uncharted waters and it will be interesting to see what a “family dinner” is like 20 years from now.

  3. This is a great post that really highlights a common issue in most people’s lives. As phones have incorporated more capabilities centered on entertainment (text, social media, games, live streaming, etc.) there has definitely been less of a need to detach one’s self from the device. Last class we spoke about Facebook’s investment in virtual reality with the hope that it will replace phone technology. It will be interesting to see if this technology shift takes place, and how “alone” people will be with a VR headset strapped on at all times.

  4. dcardito13 · ·

    I loved your discussion about how people have become way too invested in the virtual relationships than the real-life ones that are physically present. I have personally seen relationships spiral out of control based solely off the use of social media and the lack of face-to-face interactions. I have plenty of friends who think they are “best friends” with certain people just because they always comment on their photos or like their tweets. Yet when I ask them when the last time they physically spoke to or interacted with that person, they always have to think long and hard about it. Even though social media does connect people in various ways, I believe that in the long-run, it is doing more harm than good.

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