People were asked to sit in a chair and think, without a device or a book.
When we are secure in ourselves, we are able to really hear what other people have to say.At the same time, conversation with other people, both in intimate settings and in larger social groups, leads us to become better at inner dialogue. We turn time alone into a problem that needs to be solved with technology. Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, led a team that explored our capacity for solitude.Their embrace of the virtue of disconnection suggests a crucial connection: The capacity for empathic conversation goes hand in hand with the capacity for solitude.In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours.COLLEGE students tell me they know how to look someone in the eye and type on their phones at the same time, their split attention undetected.
They say it’s a skill they mastered in middle school when they wanted to text in class without getting caught.
If we can’t gather ourselves, we can’t recognize other people for who they are.
If we are not content to be alone, we turn others into the people we need them to be.
In one experiment, many student subjects opted to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit alone with their thoughts.
People sometimes say to me that they can see how one might be disturbed when people turn to their phones when they are together.
Now they use it when they want to be both with their friends and, as some put it, “elsewhere.”These days, we feel less of a need to hide the fact that we are dividing our attention.