Essay on the Age of Technology
Number of words: 679
Sherry Turkle, author of No Need to Call, is the Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology and has received a doctorate from Harvard in sociology and personality psychology. With these credentials, Turkle is well equipped to handle the occasionally daunting issue of technology’s effects on people. Her piece is certainly stirring; however, it does fail to illustrate both sides of the supposed issue. She claims that instant communication in the form of telephones, text messages, and emails is having a negative impact on our relationships with others as well as ourselves. Everyone she interviews seems to be in agreeance with this; there is no notable counter-argument. But what Turkle fails to address it that, although excessive use of these technologies can certainly be troublesome, the majority of people are capable of using them in moderation and to the benefit of their everyday lives.
Turkle’s idea that the telephone is a devil in disguise is not a novel one. Since its advent over a hundred and forty, people have speculated that the sound would drive them mad or that the government would listen in on their conversations. (LaFrance) Every major technological invention has faced such opposition, yet time and time again these advancements have proven themselves more helpful than harmful. Turkle, however, does not address the many benefits of instant communication, instead drawing attention to the more insidious effects it can have. Of the telephone, she says “We have all taken up a burden, reframed it as an asset-” (Turkle 382). Turkle claims that being in constant communication with others is taxing, simply another source of stress in an already stressful world. But this increase cannot be blamed solely on the telephone. As technology advances, so does our society, demanding a greater investment in our jobs and in our schools. Our higher dependency on immediate communication is a by-product of our whirlwind society, not the root cause.
Likewise, Turkle blames text messaging and social media for cultivating a ‘dangerous habit of mind’ (Turkle 374) where people both young and old can create an idealized version of themselves. Free from the pressures of judgment and ridicule, they will say things they normally wouldn’t. Turkle paints this as some sort of deception (Turkle 380). However, it is in fact the opposite. She even confesses to this while describing classical analysis that hides the patient from the analyst’s sight (Turkle 374). When online, out of sight, people are less concerned with what they think is normal. They will raise their voice on issues were they would typically keep quiet. These technologies are not facilitating deception; far from it. They are allowing more people to be heard on a greater scale than ever before, and what they preach online is what they actually believe. This makes it easier than ever to see a person’s true character. It is hard to imagine this being seen as a disadvantage.
These modern technologies are capable of providing people with a heightened connection to the world around them. They allow us to stay in touch everywhere we go, a wonderful asset in our increasingly hectic society. It is more than a mere convenience; it is a necessity. Turkle does offer a valuable insight into the problems that arise when one depends too heavily on technology, particularly when it comes to maintaining relationships, but with proper use they serve an invaluable purpose. Our world will never again be capable of functioning without such immediate means of communication. We have progressed too far to go back, and our reliance is likely to continue growing as we create ever more sophisticated machines. This is the age of technology; we must either embrace it, or get left behind.
“No Need to Call.” Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, by Sherry Turkle, Basic Books, 2012, pp. 374–382.
LaFrance, Adrienne. “When the Telephone Was Dangerous.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 6 Sept. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/notes/2015/09/when-the-telephone-was-dangerous/403609/.