Sherry Turkle, PhD (Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, Founding Director, MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), discusses research on college-age students’ capacity for boredom and solitude at the #AskTheExperts webinar “PITR, IKR?: Youth and Communication in the Digital Age” on October 19, 2022.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: With our technology-encouraged intolerance for boredom, there’s another casualty: an intolerance for solitude. A classic study of college students asked if they would be willing to sit alone without a book or a smartphone for 15 minutes. The students say “Yes, for money, definitely!” And when the researchers go further and asked, “Well, do you think you’d want to give yourself electroshock during this time?” The students say, “No way!” They’re horrified. But in fact, after 6 minutes of being alone without a book or a phone, and with a handy electroshock machine in the room, a significant number of students, men and women, do begin to give themselves mild electroshocks rather than sit quietly with their thoughts. The capacity for solitude, and why I’m mentioning it, is important because it is essential to your capacity for relationships.If you can’t be alone with yourself, and, of course, this is what social media is undermining, when you turn to others, you don’t hear them. You’re not learning to hear them as they really are. You’re turning them into who you need them to be to support your fragile sense of self. So solitude supports empathy. If you don’t learn to be alone, you will only know how to be lonely.

View the full webinar

Ask the Experts—Webinar

PITR, IKR?: Youth and Communication in the Digital Age

The latest research (and perspectives from teens themselves) on trends in youth digital communication and tips for creating positive and connection-centered communication online or offline.

Social Media
Media Literacy
Social Relationships