Summary and Response Essay— Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
How do you feel leading a life stuffed with text messages, phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages? Are you accustomed to it or tired of it? This is a typical living type for modern people to “deal with” this hasty and fast-paced society. However, have you ever thought that we have less and less time to face the real environment around us owing to employing these medium to let us have connection with others afar. Have you sensed the tendency of condition in the society? Is the development doing us good or bad?
In chapter eight of the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” the author Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT asserts that people nowadays are all “cyborgs”. We can not live a moment without technological devices such as spectacles, cell phones or laptops. We love to experience keeping connected with others by these technologies. Besides, she also mentions that especially to teenagers does the Internet offer them a free space to explore identity, which is called the “moratorium” by Erik Erikson. Also, in virtual places, such as the Internet, we can start a “Second Life”. By creating an avatar, we can edit the life and profile we expect it to present. They are all that we can grasp in our hands— we are the master of ourselves. Turkle also mentions that although we may feel enhanced when being tethered to the network or gaining more time by multitasking, we are encountering “relationships with less”. She stands at a neutral position by depicting both beneficial and disadvantaged sides of being tethered to the Internet for us.
People tend to mark their absence by talking on phones or glancing down at screens of their mobile devices. Places where people converge together are like social collection instead of a communal space. We log out of the physical world and log into the virtual space and thus cease the interaction with people surrounding us. Even when traveling to a remote place far away from home, we attempt to “hang out” with our friends or beloved by keeping our presences online in order to keep contacts with them.
Nevertheless, there are ironies exist in people wondering between the real world and virtual spaces. Turkle gives us an example of Pete, a person who has a wife and two children in the real world. He found himself owning merrier relationship with others and feeling more like he is as the avatar he creates in the virtual space. He prefers indulging in his Second Life rather than the physical world.
Moreover, people feel like their abilities are enhanced and efficiency are increased while multitasking. In fact, they do not perform well on each of the task they are dealing with. We seem to gain more time from the networked devices but the truth is not like that. Besides, networked devices also caused pressures upon us. We may find that sometimes we want to escape from being tethered to the always-on connectivity for there is no room to breathe while connected with others all the time. There is an example of Diane, a museum curator, who can hardly keep up with the pace of technology. She hopes to be “offline” in order to enjoy a careless life during her scheduled vacation. She is yoked and lack of her private space.
Under the tethered and hasty environment, people hence generate complaints such as “I don’t have enough time alone with my mind.” Indeed, the author suggests us that to have more time to think means that we have to put those networked devices away. The author also proposed that there are paradoxical effects of network on adolescents nowadays. It is easy for them to play with identity while hard to discard the past because the Internet is forever so they somehow wish to live in a world without information taken from them automatically. In the end of the chapter, Turkle extracts a sentence from a teenager, Sanjay. He tells Turkle that “How long do I have to continue doing this,” words that totally express the anxiety and weariness that result from busying coping with the hasty social life.
The writer, Sherry Turkle, does not explicitly express whether she encourage[agr] or depreciates[wc] us using networked devices, however, through her words, we can see that she implies that it is not that good to become tethered to the virtual world by providing us examples that indicate negative effects on those people. As for my opinion, I am not in favor of yoking myself in the virtual world. Therefore, though I own devices like a cellphone, a laptop and e-mail addresses, I try not to rely on or employ them too much so that I will not feel myself bound and have no personal spaces. However, I am concerned with the way modern people react to the rapidly-changing technological devices as once a kind of new product is launched, people rush to buy them. In addition, it is quite common to see that people are accustomed to glancing at screens of smartphones or other portable networked devices once they are free on the bus or the train to mark their absence. I do not feel like this is a good circumstance among the society as even during the short periods of time, people do not let themselves relax and face the beauty that they may not notice surrounded them. Though people who do not own smartphones like me may look weird in the eyes of others, I still choose not to lead a life tethered to the virtual world.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.