The compound effect of all these online relationships ”“ the massive global interconnectivity so loved by the cyberutopians ”“ is that “networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone”. The quality of the interaction is the emotional equivalent of junk food; it may fill you up but it hardly nourishes.
Such a danger might have been acceptable when social networks were self-selecting in their membership: the only people capable of getting on to a bulletin board in the mid-1980s had already followed a steep learning curve and weren’t limited in their social lives to the online world. But today, the network is everywhere, and our children are “Digital Natives” who are continually online.
So [Sherry] Turkle rails against what she sees as the falsely consoling effect of cyberspace ”“ whether it is the quality of online relationships or the emotional crutch provided by the scope for endless self-reinvention….