Alone Together

In Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together, she argues many aspects on how the technology today effects our society and lifestyles to extents it never has before. Her main thesis can be found in simpler terms right on the front cover where it states “Expect more from technology and less from each other”. Sherry Turkle believes that technology is taking over to a point where society may be coming useless.

In her reading she conducts studies with Ferbies and other digital technology that are supposed to simulate learning in the youth and elderly. She mostly focuses on these two age groups when conducting her studies. In the first portion of her book she focuses on how social robots set condition. She explains this as the Internet and our technology representing the demands that do and don’t exist between humans and robots that is now similar to human and human interaction. She explains how robotics is in the process of taking over the responsibilities we as humans have throughout our lives. The ELIZA effect she speaks about is a technology that can simulate conversation between human and robot. It was found that people were willing to talk to the robot. The human who was speaking with the robot filled in the gaps where the conversation may have not made sense, because they embraced the conversation so much. They could say anything they wanted to this robot and know that it was a private conversation. They did this because they were so eager to engage in connection and conversation with the robot. These robots stimulate intelligence and we go along with it, believing as though they are just as smart and intelligent as humans. Vulnerable people take advantage of this to find comfort and to cure loneliness (again, the youth and the elderly). Turkle explains that yes, robots can make us feel good, but they are simply not good enough. In the case with the elderly, they would speak with the robot but when they were allowed to choose they wanted the conversation with the human. This is because robot interaction is not real. Humans thrive off of interaction and robots are simply doing the “job” (i.e. giving medication, bathing) but not filling the void of conversation. This leads her into the argument that technology does make it easier to communicate throughout our society, especially with the elderly, but are we really giving them attention? This could be depicted through the example of the grand-daughter Skyping with her grand-mother, but in reality she was doing her e-mails while Skyping. Our sense of community is changing because technology is changing what the word really means. We constantly choose to take part in the global village on the Internet and through technology and no longer embracing the face-to-face interactions we could have. We choose to not be in our present moments and constantly be “on” with our technology and this is causing an issue in our social environments. In class we spoke about how in the real world of businesses instead of emailing someone to go to dinner give them a call and put yourself out there so that you can embrace the face-to-face interaction and conversation rather than falling into the “millennial” category. She also goes on to speak of narcissism. She says that we are using other people as self objects. We choose to use relationships for specific reasons, which would be when we need the instant feel good gaps filled in. The example we spoke about in class is where we apologize online because it is easier rather than apologizing to the persons face. She says this may be because of the anxiety we have about seeing their reactions and actually having to see their pain. This is resulting in technology allowing us to be our worst selves.

I personally think that Sherry Terkle’s argument is a bit of a stretch. I think she is looking at such a large topic that her arguments don’t have to be the right answer because there are many variations of the subject. Her argument that we are not growing up any more because of technology really irritates me. Although part of this may bring us to a point, I believe she is exaggerating. I talk to my mom on the phone everyday, yet I am a very independent person. I take care of my own bills, I make my own plans, I am doing life on my own. Yet, she argues that I’m instantly not growing up because I do so. I fail to see her argument. I do see where we are becoming so distracted by technology that we are not growing and maturing as fast as humans have in the past because of everything that is always taking our attention. We sit in class and rather than learning we are on our computers or phones staying updated on the latest thing posted. I did enjoy her book, and I do disagree with parts of it, but she definitely made me frightened for the future.