The acclaimed writer on technology and its effect on our mental health talks about her memoir and the insights Covid has given her
Sherry Turkle, 72, is professor of the social studies of science and technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was one of the first academics to examine the impact of technology on human psychology and society. She has published a series of acclaimed books: her latest, The Empathy Diaries, is an enthralling memoir taking in her time growing up in Brooklyn, her thorny family background, studying in Paris and at Harvard, and her academic career.
It’s quite unusual for an academic to put themselves central to the story. What was your motivation for writing a memoir?
I see the memoir as part of a trilogy. I wrote a book called Alone Together in which I diagnose a problem that technology was creating a stumbling block to empathy – we are always distracted, always elsewhere. Then I wrote a book called Reclaiming Conversation, which was to say here’s a path forward to reclaiming that attention through a very old human means, which is giving one another our full attention and talking. I see this book as putting into practice a conversation with myself of the most intimate nature to share what you can learn about your history, about increasing your compassion for yourself and your ability to be empathic with others.