Posted: March 31st, 2022

A complex understanding of social relations

¶ … Robots” a Review of Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together”


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Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together” relates to the contemporary society and to how it has come to be shaped by its relationship with technology. The online environment, as she describes it, is a confusing place where people take on identities that they feel are characteristic to them. Even with this, this gradually makes it difficult for them to be able to comprehend human emotions and they come to replace these respective feelings with ideas they believe to be perfect for their state of mind and the circumstances they are in at the moment when they communicate with each-other.


Jonah Lehrer’s essay “We Robots” provides insight on Turkle’s book “Alone Together” and to how the writer changed her opinion with regard to the digital age in a fifteen-year period. Lehrer makes it possible for readers to understand matters from Turkle’s perspective by describing her initial point-of-view concerning the internet as being particularly optimistic. He later goes on to emphasize her current perspective and shows how she currently perceives technology as destroying people’s ability to understand each-others actual needs.


Technology in the contemporary society has reached a level where people use devices on a daily basis with the purpose of interacting with each-other, in order to work, and, generally in order to entertain themselves. There is much controversy with regard to the exact effects that these things have on people on a social level. While some consider that technology has had a positive effect on their ability to connect with each-other, others believe that it made inter-human relations colder and that many individuals have lost the ability to comprehend the importance of a face-to-face relationship. It is difficult and almost impossible to assess the exact effects that technology has had on society as a result of the rapid progress that the world has seen during the last few years.


From the moment when I wake up I turn on my smartphone, I check my Facebook, my e-mails, and see the latest news. Depending on my Facebook notifications I respond to friend requests, to messages, and I comment statuses that I believe to be interesting. I consider that by commenting these respective statuses I am getting actively involved in debating topics that are either personal or that discuss events happening around the world. My friends typically appreciate my input and depending on whether or not they agree with my point-of-view they respond.


A friend of mine wrote a status discussing the Syrian crisis and I believe that he was too harsh with regard to a particular side involved in the conflict. I write my perspective on the matter and we go on to debate the subject for several hours with short breaks. I am careful about the information I write, as even though I am expressing my point-of-view I would not want particular individuals having access to the messages to get the wrong idea with regard to my perspective on the Syrian crisis.


It is certainly problematic to discuss with regard to the effects technology has on our lives. While Facebook is often categorized as an environment robbing people of their ability to interact in the real world, Lehrer emphasizes the results of a study that showed otherwise. “A 2007 study at Michigan State University involving 800 undergraduates, for instance, found that Facebook users had more social capital than abstainers, and that the site increased measures of “psychological well-being,” especially in those suffering from low self-esteem.” (Lehrer) This shows that Facebook can actually play an important role in making people gain a complex understanding of social relations and that it can improve their ability to interact with each-other. Many individuals are likely to refrain from using Facebook solely based on rumors with regard to its effects. These people practically refuse to get involved in online social networks without actually understanding what they are all about.


Turkle is right to a certain degree in saying that “we expect more from technology and less from each other.” However, it is probable that she attempted to address the problem from a perspective involving the 1995 optimistic individual who expected something else from the internet. The fact that the world did not evolve as she expected it would evolve does not necessarily mean that society suffers as a result of the online environment.


There are several aspects that need to be addressed when considering the online environment and people’s tendency to take on particular attitudes as a result of becoming involved in it. When regarding thing strictly from a sociological perspective, it would be wrong to provide a verdict in the present, as the limited information existing with regard to the topic makes it impossible for someone to have a general understanding of it. Turkle simply looks at the negative part of the matter and thus has a biased opinion concerning it.

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