I was on my way to deliver a keynote to Alzheimer’s caregivers. While waiting at the airport gate, a mother facing her baby in a carriage caught my attention. From my vantage point behind the mother, I could see the baby’s contagious smile and hear the engaging babbling as she gazed at her mother.
As I walked past them to board the plane, I saw this was not a moment of intimate connection. The mother’s attention was directed at her cell phone she held between them.
Maybe that’s why I went to hear MIT professor Sherry Turkle on tour with her new book Alone Together. Turkle told the story of why she wrote the book. Over the past 15 years she observed two trends: our growing intimacy with inanimate objects like pet rocks and robots, and our eroding intimacy with people sitting across the table.
I felt deeply saddened as I heard her talk about the growing popularity of robots that care for children and the elderly. I thought about the mother and baby at the airport.
I witness a troubling trend in the management of “relationship portfolios.” The portfolios are bigger. Facebook and Twitter and texting offer a diversification strategy, and, in general diversification leads to safety. Yet, for many, the overall intimacy value of the portfolio is in decline.
I wonder how technology will impact the way we care for aging parents and partners and friends. I hope we act wisely.
As a physician and caregiving expert I know one things for sure. We need intimate human connections as much as we need food and air and water.
What do you think? How does social media fit into your care of aging parents? Join the conversation.