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Coaching to a Las Vegas State of Mind

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She sees both good and bad possibilities for the use of the new digital innovations.  Commenting on Erikson’s identity stage she says, “This is a time relatively consequence free for doing what adolescents need to do: fall in and out of love with people and ideas.  Real life does not always provide this kind of space, but the internet does.”  Turkle ( 2011, p.152-153) continues to describe why this is significant:

We don’t get all developmental tasks done at age-appropriate times—or even necessarily get them done at all.  We move on and use the materials we have to do the best we can at each point in our lives.  We rework unresolved issues and seek out missed experiences.  The internet provides new spaces in which we can do this, no matter how imperfectly, throughout our lives.  So, adults as well as adolescents use it to explore identity).

In this way, Turkle suggests that the internet and networking capabilities that are available to us today have tremendous benefit that they can offer to work out developmental tasks that the world has never seen.  However, the good offered comes with its fair share of risk.  One of the major dangers of the internet is that it is always there.  One of the hallmarks of growing up has always been independence, being able to function alone.  However, if the internet is always on, “we are together even when we are alone” (Turkle, 2011, p.169).  She goes on to say:

The network’s effects on today’s young people are paradoxical.  Networking makes it easier to play with identity (for example, by experimenting with an avatar that is interestingly different from you) but harder to leave the past behind, because the Internet is forever.  The network facilitates separation (a cell phone allows greater freedoms) but also inhibits it (a parent is always on tap).  Teenagers turn away from the “real-time” demands of the telephone [or a person across the table from them] and disappear into role-playing games they describe as “communities” and “worlds.”

The irony that she describes is thick.  The real seems to be pivoting in its priority placement with the contrived.  Young people choose between life before their eyes and life behind their screen.  This is certainly the scene that Turkle is describing, but it’s more serious than an issue of priority.

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