Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other - Sherry Turkle This book has become the laughing stock of Hampshire College. (Which, if you don't know, is the college I've recently started to attend.) The author's last name, Turkle, is now being used as a verb all over campus. For example:Two people are talking face-to-face. One person, while in conversation with the other person, takes out a phone (or other such electronic device) and starts texting. This person is Turkling. There's also the Awkward Turkle––which is when you do the Awkward Turtle but up next to your ear, like a cell phone.So, as you can see, many good jokes came out of reading this. And it got some interesting discussions started among us all. But over all, it seems that everyone is unanimous in their dislike of this book. Well anyway, here's the background you need: Sherry Turkle is an MIT professor who hates technology. (How ironic.) In the first half of the book, she discusses robots and other forms of artificial intelligence, and keeps insisting that everyone would rather have robot companions than actual friends. In the second half of the book, she discusses social media and how it affects our lives. (To be honest, I didn't even read the second half of the book, but that's what I've been told.)Now, I think Turkle has some interesting ideas. In some ways, I can see how robot companionships could be better than human relationships. The thing with robot companionships, or even relationships with people via the internet, can be cut off more easily than relationships in real life. If your robot friend was being annoying, you could unplug him. If your internet friend is being annoying, you can shut off your computer.Whenever these types of relationships got too messy, you could just end them, and (according to Turkle) that's the appeal. In her eyes, we're all afraid of sentimentality and all we want are shallow, painless relationships. A lot of what she has to say is interesting enough, but I struggled with this book because a) I didn't agree with her, and b) I didn't think she executed the idea well.First of all, she seems to take on a superior tone, implying that she's better than everyone who is addicted to technology. That, right from the start, is a turn-off. She also presents this book as some kind of research study, but she doesn't back up her arguments with substantial evidence. Obviously, she was trying to prove something that she thought was true. And because of that, she manipulated her experiments. In all of her "tests", it seemed that she was trying to put words in the subjects' mouths in order to prove her point. It probably helped that she seemed to mostly do experiments with young children and elderly people––people who probably wouldn't have realized they were being manipulated.The whole thing seemed to be like this:Turkle: *gives subject a Furby*Subject: Haha, cool. *messes around with Furby*Turkle: IS THAT THING ALIVE?Subject: Uhhh ... uhhh I don't know. Sort of? I'm too young to understand the question...Turkle: SEE! THE KID THINKS THE ROBOT IS 'SORT OF' ALIVE! ... Okay now, kid, what are some things that make the Furby better than a living pet?Subject: Well ... Furbies can talk. And they can't die.Turkle: SEE! THE KID THINKS FURBY IS BETTER THAN A REAL PET BECAUSE IT CAN TALK AND IT WON'T DIE! She then repeated this same experiment about five thousand times. Until it was like, "Okay, okay. We get the picture already."Now, I have to admit, part of my dislike of this book comes from the fact that I disagree with Turkle. First of all, I disagree with her argument that all internet relationships are impersonal. I've built some stronger friendships through the internet than I've built with some people in real life. I've had some face-to-face friends that I knew for years ... and then one day, I'd suddenly realize I didn't know a thing about them. I didn't know what their favorite colors are, what movies they liked. They didn't seem to care about anything but school and grades, and that's all they'd ever talk about, etc. The internet has introduced me to a lot of fascinating people with whom I've had great conversations and learned a lot. If I didn't use the internet, I would have missed out on making some great friends.Because we don't see each other face-to-face (except through the occasional video chat), does that not make us "real friends"? And it's not as if I abandon all my other friends to talk to my internet friends. When I'm not with my so-called "real life" friends, I can talk to my family. If I can't talk to my family, I can talk to my internet friends. The fact that there is always someone there to talk to is nice, and that's the beauty of technology nowadays. It's not like I'm talking to robots. Eesh.Another major problem with this book is that Turkle often makes pretty big generalizations. Or she just makes herself look just plain ignorant. Or a combination of both. Like in this paragraph!"These days, teenagers have sexual adulthood thrust upon them before they are ready to deal with the complexities of relationships. They are drawn to the comfort of connection without the demands of intimacy. This may lead them to a hookup––sex without commitment or even caring. Or it may lead to an online romance––companionship that can always be interrupted. Not surprisingly, teenagers are drawn to love stories in which full intimacy cannot occur––here I think of current passions for films and novels about high school vampires who cannot sexually consummate relationships for fear of hurting those they love. And teenagers are drawn to the idea of technological communion. They talk easily of robots that would be safe and predictable companions."Uh, stereotyping much? First of all ... all teenagers are afraid of intimacy, so the only option for them is hookups and online relationships? Need I remind you, probably just as many adults are involved in hookups and online relationships. I really don't get this. I don't think all teens are searching for "safe" relationships. Many of them want to have sex. You know, raging hormones. Also, many of them do want commitment. I'm a teenager, and personally I don't know anyone who's in an online relationship (or even anyone who's hooked up with someone), but many teens I know have had girlfriends/boyfriends in real life and have seemed very happy that way. I'm pretty sure if I asked any of my friends if they'd rather have a robot for a companion than a person, the answer would be no. So, I don't know where the heck this idea came from.Secondly, has this woman read Twilight? Does she seriously think kids like Twilight because "Oh, they can't have sex! That makes me feel all safe and fuzzy inside!" Um, no ... It's called sexual tension, and it's in pretty much every romance ever written. There has to be something in the way of the romance, so that the tension builds up––and when romance actually occurs, it's all the more satisfying to the reader. It's not to make the reader feel "safer" ... just ... What? Also, Bella and Edward do make out frequently and yes, ultimately, HAVE SEX. So, I'm preeeetty sure that's what teenagers like about it. Not the "I can never have sex with you!" parts. This just does not make sense to me. There was some other part where some teenage girl told her she would totally have sex with a robot, or whatever. And Turkle's like, "DID YOU HEAR THAT? ALL TEENAGERS WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH ROBOTS!" I ... just ... *headsmack*However, even if this book isn't the most well-written or well-researched thing ever, it brings up some important concerns. Reading about the Furbies and Tomagotchis and My Real Babies and whatnot ... It freaks me out a little. I think what disturbs me most is that these types of toys discourage imagination, since they "think" for themselves and have their own needs.I used to play with Beanie Babies, Barbies, Playmobile, etc. and I always thought the best part was being able to create my own situations, adventures, characters, and worlds, having nothing to rely upon but my own mind. I did have a Tomagotchi at one point, and though I liked it, it was rather difficult to take care of. Since you can't turn them off, I remember I always had to leave mine with my dad when I was at school, and then all day I'd have to worry that my dad would forget to feed it or something. With other toys, you don't have to worry about keeping them "alive", and personally I preferred that.But it seems like nowadays, all toys talk or sing or move. I have three siblings under the age of 8, so our house is overrun with Zhu Zhu pets and other toys that constantly make noise. And when my siblings aren't playing with those, they're playing video games or watching TV. I don't mean to sound like a crotchety old man or something––don't get me wrong, I watch a lot of TV, too––I just fear for the next generation of kids because I worry they won't have imagination left. They're going to grow up with all the technology already there for them because the older generations have created so much.(EDIT: My mom read this review and got offended because she thought I was insulting her parenting. So, allow me to clarify. My mom and dad are terrific parents whom I love and respect with all my heart. I didn't mean to say anything offensive. If anyone else found the previous paragraph insulting, I apologize. I'm not making a criticism of anyone's parenting. My siblings do things other than play with electronic toys and video games; they read, draw, play outside, etc. But they still use more electronics than I did when I was a kid. This is partly due to the fact that there are so many kids in my family, now. For most of my childhood, I only had two sisters, so things were not as hectic. I understand that, now that my parents have so many children, it's nice to be able to turn on the TV if they need to distract the kids in order to get work done. And don't get me wrong––my siblings are all fully intelligent and have imaginative skills. I'm merely saying that kids have much easier access to technology nowadays. Interactive, talking and/or noise-making toys are much more common. Video games are able to track your movements and, in a way, place you into an imaginary setting. So what I'm saying is, I see from my own experience that Turkle's ideas about children and robot companionship are not totally far-fetched. This has nothing to do with parenting. It's just the way the world is changing.)One positive thing about this book was, some of the stuff referenced in it was like stuff out of a sci-fi novel. For example, Turkle shared one story about a man whose friend died in 9/11, and his goal is to recreate his friend in robot form. (But he started making sex robots instead ... Um. Well, other than that, WOULDN'T THAT BE A KICKASS BOOK PLOT?) Then there was some story about this guy who made robot clones of everyone in his family. His daughter went into his lab one day, saw the clone robot version of herself, and ran away screaming ... and has been terrified to enter his lab ever since. Creepy stuff. This would be good story material, maaan. But of course, these weren't even Turkle's ideas. She was just using them as her "evidence" ... of what, I'm not really sure.Anyway. I'm sorry, Turkle. This book just did not work for me. You have some interesting concepts, but you did not convince me that your argument is right. Maybe if you hadn't manipulated your experiments, or actually backed up your points with substantial research, it would have been more interesting.Turkle came to our school to give a talk. Instead of going, my hallmates and I decorated our hallway with ballons. But I was told that Turkle got totally bashed during the Q&A session. *Awkward Turkle*