By Sherry Turkle Basic Books; 360 pages
MIT Psychologist Sherry Turkle has spent the past 30 years studying the way people interact with computers--and the past 15 years researching and writing this book. The work has paid off: nobody has ever articulated so passionately and intelligently what we're doing to ourselves by substituting technologically mediated social interaction--texting, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook--for the face-to-face kind. Equipped with penetrating intelligence and a sense of humor, Turkle surveys the front lines of the social-digital transformation: girls who use software to make themselves look thinner in Facebook photos, children who watch their BlackBerry-addicted parents text their way through family dinners, robots designed to have emotional interactions with humans. There's no scolding here: Turkle never loses her empathic connection with people who are struggling to figure out the new rules. But she never loses her sense of what's at stake either. "Our problems with the Net are becoming too distracting to ignore," she writes. "We don't need to reject or disparage technology. We need to put it in its place."