Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Essay: The Force That Binds Us Together

This was our second English Comp I assignment. It's another reader response over a review written by Jonah Lehrer, an editor at Wired magazine. His review, "We Robots", (printed in our text book, Everyone’s An Author) analyzes Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together.

The Force That Binds Us Together

     Sherry Turkle expresses concern about the dangers modern technology poses. She seems extremely critical of the fact that technology—especially robots—allows people to avoid the stress of interpersonal relationships (836). She provides an example of an 82-year-old woman who ignored her great-granddaughter in favor of a crying robotic doll (837). Driving the point home, she also criticizes the internet and the impact she believes it has on the way people communicate. Her tone sounds dreary as she describes how people today prefer sending a text message instead of making a phone call, or how more people are “trapped” by social media in an age when the things shared online never completely disappear (838). Her book gives misleading information about technology’s impact on human relationships; furthermore, she relies solely on personal feelings and observations to support her thesis.

     Jonah Lehrer paints a different picture about the technology Turkle criticized. Lehrer gives the reader an impression that he is more accustomed to technology and its benefits. In his review, Lehrer appears to share similar concerns about robots. He infers a new relationship can be a scary proposition that some people may avoid if they had a robot at home, freeing them from the anxiety associated with social expectations (837). However, a clear difference in attitudes is evident as Lehrer transitions to Turkle’s assessment of the online environment. Lehrer’s concluding point was that technology is just another “tool” people use to communicate (839). He also maintained that she did not delve deeply enough into her perspective; she failed to consider some critical questions and lacked concrete data.

     Throughout his review, Lehrer clearly states positive and flawed parts of Turkle’s book. Support for his review is well established with specific evidence in the form of statistical studies which refute the claims made by Turkle’s primary focus on qualitative criteria. The studies Lehrer cited showed the use of social media actually increases positive feelings and social interactions in the offline environment (839). Yet, Lehrer does give fair and appropriate praise by citing Turkle’s book as “fascinating” and very “readable” (839). In conjunction with the quantitate data he presents, Lehrer’s authority and credibility are established as he commands clear knowledge of technology throughout his review.

     Humans will often take the easy road when presented with a scenario that creates anxiety; therefore, Turkle’s concern about robots and their impact on human relationships does have some merit. However, candid observations indicate that Turkle’s credibility was never unequivocally established with readers. While an online search will undoubtedly locate supporting claims that technology poses certain dangers, technology in itself does not lead to psychological problems. The online environment has made it easier for us to communicate with people all over the world—in some cases with people we may have never met—which serves to unite us closer than ever before. Such close bonds are more likely to strengthen our psychological well-being; thus, technology and the online environment present greater rewards than any potential dangers cited.

Works Cited

Lunsford, Andrea [et al.]. Everyone's An Author. Ed. Marilyn Moller.
     New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013. Print.

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