Is Technology to Blame?

I was intrigued by the article, “The Creep of Social Media Raises Big Questions” by Sherry Turkle. After reading it, I acknowledge that Turkle points out some valid criticisms of social media and their detrimental effects, yet I do not fully agree with the way she prefaces her argument.  Basically, she points out how negatively social media is affecting society and more specifically, the social skills of mankind. She doesn’t necessarily encourage us to stop using social media but rather to question and evaluate their impacts.

Turkle begins by discussing the appeal or attraction of social media and how it has roped us all in. She points out the ease of “hiding” from others through social media because, let’s face it, communicating through the internet is easier and faster than face-to-face communication. Additionally, she suggests children may not be developing appropriate “negotiation skills” as well as general social skills that are acquired through communicating in person.  It’s much easier to say things in a text message than face-to-face sometimes.  Nowadays, everything is instantaneous; we expect immediate responses and become impatient when they don’t come.  We also gauge our successes on our social media sites; some people believe how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers a person has correlates with his or her popularity. Whether that’s true or not, when we post on our social media sites, we expect others to like or respond to our posts.  We are always waiting for the reactions and responses of others, which may not be healthy.  

Turkle also points out that privacy is the foundation of democracy; obviously, social media has made privacy harder to come by.  Others can have access to your photos, who you are friends with, where you work, and where you live. The issue of privacy is definitely not new to the discourse surrounding social media.  What information should we be posting online? How do we know if a person is who they say they are? Privacy concerns have been one of the most publicly discussed topic in regards to social media. I’m sure we’ve all been warned at some point or another that that good-looking guy who follows us on Twitter could potentially be a fifty-year old man. Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison discuss this issue of privacy in their article, “Social Network Sites,” where they explain the “privacy paradox” as teens not fully understanding how public the online world really is. Though, they go on to reveal that statistics show the majority of teens have profiles that actually are not viewable to everyone.

It’s interesting how throughout her article, Turkle seems to discuss social media as their own entity, independent of any human control. More specifically, in the first paragraph she personifies social media as some sort of lover who we are “smitten” with and is growing more and more attractive as time goes on.  Immediately, I drew a connection between this article and Nancy Baym’s principle of Technological Determinism.  Turkle is giving the technology itself all the power and assuming we cannot change its influence on us.  While social media undoubtedly have an enormous impact on our lives whether we like it or not, her argument neglects the fact that we control social media.  We created these sites and although they have become larger than life, we ultimately can control the way in which we use them.  Turkle treats social media as an inevitable part of our world that could potentially harm us or bring us down. Sure, social media and their effects are inevitable but there are enormous benefits that have arose from this new era that we are living in.

When I think of the benefits of social media, the video, Anthropological Introduction to Youtube  comes to mind. It portrays one of the most positive aspects of social media: communication with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.  Videos like, “Numa Numa,” go viral and transcend geographic boundaries. Whether I want to email someone sitting in the room next to me or on the other side of the world, it will still be immediate.  The beauty of this instantaneous communication is that information can spread so quickly and effortlessly; if you have internet, you’re in the loop.

While I see what Turkle is getting at in her article, she neglects the fact that humans have an effect on the technology; it’s a two-way road.  Social media are an integral part of our lives and have shaped the way we live but we are constantly changing technology to cater to our wants and needs.  This dynamic is best known as Baym’s Social Shaping theory. We may spend more time these days staring into a screen but that’s not all technology’s fault because we, as humans, have created it. 



  1. I agree with several of your statements. Turkle is definitely raising interesting points about social media’s growing presence in our everyday lives. But I feel she makes several claims, and lacks evidence to support them. For instance, “We come to measure success by e-mails answered, connections made, posts responded to.” How does she qualify such a statement? That is a rather hefty claim without citing how she arrived at that conclusion. This is not a knock on Turkle in any way, she boasts extremely impressive credentials. However, her article is an editorial, (hence its placement in the opinons page) and is not based on a study, but is presented as though a study is unnecessary because its already understood.

    Going off her quote, and your’s about followers, tweets, responses etc. correlating to popularity and success. I would agree those beliefs exists, however, I do not personally subscribe to them. But I think an interesting study would be to survey a diverse sample of social media users and ask questions about their social media “popularity,” feelings of self worth, and face-to-face relationships. It would be intriguing to see if Turkle’s statement could be proven.

  2. One place I would have to agree with Turkle is that social media has made privacy on Internet harder to come by. It is crucial to understand that the information people provide on social media sites and search-engines have security and privacy implications. By being able to monitor and record our patterns of use on the Internet, governments for example can control citizens’ activities, while business can gain access to our private information like our bank accounts, insurance details and consumer spending patterns. Google, like Facebook, keeps a log of every search we make. Even with applications like Blackboard and, our computers are searched for private information, our every move safely stored on their databases. Everything we do on the Internet can be traced and scanned, without us ever knowing about it. On a side note, it shocks me to hear that people all over the world are being arrested for things they write on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Although this is more frequent in nations associated with the Arab Spring, there are cases of such arrests in the United States too!

  3. This is interesting because my first blog post, “The Art of Conversation,” was on an article about texting, and the article cites Turkle as a source. In the article, she lists the same concerns as the article you use as a source: social media is ruining real life social skills and society will be doomed—I’m paraphrasing, of course.

    Of course, there are cons to the pros that social media offers us but I, too, felt that Turkle was placing blame on technology rather than acknowledging the responsibilities that we have as social media/technology users. She mentions the society’s growing need for immediacy, further fueled by social media; that need for immediacy is what created social media. We are responsible.

    I see the technological determinist within the article, especially with the personification of social media that you mention. In the end, that is all we can do. We can make the decisions to use and the method of which we use the social media that is available to us. However, I do believe she is giving us, the users, hope and power by saying, “we will learn to use them more wisely.”

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