Alone Together Summary By Sherry Turkle

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The book Alone Together: How Technology Is Transforming Our Lives explores the effects of technology on our daily lives.

It's written by Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT who has been studying the psychology of human relationships with machines for over 25 years.

This book is an eye-opening look at how technology has affected our relationships with each other and even ourselves.

Turkle explains that although we use smartphones, social media, and other forms of technology designed to bring us closer together, these advances in technology can often make us feel more distant from one another.

She argues that it's important to understand how these gadgets affect us in order to use them effectively and make sure that we don't lose touch with those around us.

Alone Together

Book Name: Alone Together (Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other)

Author(s): Sherry Turkle

Rating: 3.7/5

Reading Time: 22 Minutes

Categories: Society & Culture

Author Bio

Sherry Turkle is an expert on technology and the human-technology interaction.

She's a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who specializes in this area and has written several notable books on the subject.

In addition to her academic role, Sherry heads up MIT's Initiative on Technology and Self, a research group focusing thoroughly on technological advancements that affect humans and our relationships.

Exploring How Technology Is Changing Our Relationship With Each Other


In Alone Together, the author explores how our digitally connected world is making us more miserable.

Through research and interviews, they examine the ways that technology both enhances and changes the way we relate to each other, often for worse.

We learn how a seal-like robot has been designed to take care of the elderly, why many girls use “shrinking” software on profile pictures to appear thinner, or how being constantly available online actually makes us anxious.

The goal of Alone Together is to provide an insightful look at how digital devices are drastically changing our lives for the worse.

It reveals how social media platforms can make us feel isolated even when we’re physically surrounded by people, how robots create further disconnections between humans, and so much more.

Everyone should read this book if they want to understand just how today’s technologogically connected world is actually making us less happy.

As We Age, Robots Are Ready to Take the Place of Human Caregivers

You won’t have to worry about taking care of your elderly parents in the future – robots will take over!

In fact, many scientists around the world are already working on robots that can help with elderly care.

Japan is leading the way in this realm, having developed a robotic koala called Wandakun that purrs and sings as it’s touched.

It provides companionship for elderly people who often feel lonely and isolated.

Furthermore, at the 2005 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, there was a discussion about using robots to provide caregiving tasks like cutting toenails.

Many deem these tasks as “caring” even if they don’t come from a human being—what’s important is that someone or something is taking care of an individual in need.

Robots like Paro, a seal-like robot that Miriam, a 72-year-old nursing home resident, enjoys talking to and sharing secrets with, are evidence that robots can play an important role in providing comfort and companionship to aging adults.

Ultimately, as more sophisticated caregivers are developed and become widely available, you won’t have to take time out of your life to personally take care of your parents; robots will do this job for you instead!

As Robotics Become More Human-Like, They Evoke an Ethical Dilemma for Humans


When robots begin to ask for our care, the distinction between animate and inanimate objects becomes blurred.

This phenomenon was illustrated by the pet robot Tamagotchi which became a popular digital toy during the 1990s.

Its small screen displayed an animal-like creature that had basic needs, such as eating and sleeping, and it needed somebody to take care of it continuously.

Children who used these devices quickly developed a strong attachment to them, often believing that their feelings were being reciprocated.

This indicates that people can start seeing robots not only as machines but also as something they can bond with.

As robots become more lifelike, this ethical understanding is likely to shift even further.

To illustrate this point, one researcher devised a test that measured how “real” an inanimate object has to be before people feel uncomfortable when it’s hurt or mistreated.

When holding certain creatures upside-down – such as a Barbie doll, Furby (a bird-like robot), or a living rodent – participants reacted very differently.

They didn’t mind handling the doll roughly yet felt rather guilty about upsetting the Furby after some time had passed by – indicating that robotics are becoming more accepted in our society.

So when robots act or feel more real we may have an ethical dilemma on our hands if asked to “hurt” them.

This demonstrates why robots asking us for care blurs the line between animate and inanimate objects – making us empathize with these machines and see them almost like living creatures.

Robots Aren’t Just Replacements For Our Traditional Companions – Sometimes We Prefer Them

There’s no denying that robots can keep the lonely company – and in some cases, they can even be preferable to a family member.

That’s certainly been the experience of Tim, a 53-year-old man who felt guilty about putting his mother in a nursing home.

With the help of the seal-like robot Paro, which is sensitive to touch and can actually understand a few words, he feels much better about his mother’s social interactions.

He said it was “less depressing” for her to have something else – even if it isn’t alive – to talk to when he leaves.

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Yolanda has realized that robotic pets offer advantages that live ones don’t.

They don’t need as much attention or make waste; plus, you can turn them off whenever you want!

For Yolanda, AIBO (the robot dog) has become preferable to any real pet.

In short: robots are not just replacements for traditional companions – some people see them as an improvement on humans and animals alike!

The Implications of Having Human-Like Robots in Our Lives: Attachment, Catharsis, and Hurt Feelings

Hurt Feelings

As robots become more and more lifelike, we can form strong emotional connections with them.

This is particularly true for those who are feeling lonely or isolated and want someone to talk to.

For example, Andy, a 76-year-old living in a nursing home, bonded quickly with the baby robot he was given called My Real Baby.

He even went as far as naming it after his ex-wife.

The same can be seen in children too.

A 12-year-old girl named Estelle formed a strong bond with an advanced robot named Kismet.

She felt so attached to it that when it malfunctioned, she thought that she had somehow done something wrong which resulted in the robot acting “sullen” towards her.

This goes to show that our attachment to robots can have unintended consequences if things don’t go as expected or if, for whatever reason, the robot ceases functioning.

Our relationships with robots will only become stronger as they enter our lives in more and more ways – we need to be aware of how easy we may become emotionally attached or even hurt by them if things don’t turn out how we anticipated.

Are Human Relationships More Fulfilling Than Robotic Ones?

Robots can be an easy way for people to substitute real human interaction with artificial companionship.

They might seem like a solution to loneliness, but in reality, these technological distractions can cause us to forget about the real relationships in our lives.

Take Edna for example: she neglected her own granddaughter Gail when she was more interested in caring for her My Real Baby robot.

She became so preoccupied with the robot that Gail’s requests for attention were left unheard.

For some people, robots may also provide a safer way of getting social interaction without fear of being hurt or betrayed.

For instance, Wesley – who has been divorced three times and is weary of taking emotional risks – may prefer a robot companion to a real-life one.

That is why he was so eager to get his hands on Roxxxy – the first ‘sex robot’ ever created – which promised him a companion that could respond intuitively as well as meet his specific needs and interests.

In conclusion, robots are becoming increasingly commonplace substitutes for human relationships where there is either a need or an aversion towards these interactions with other people.

However, it is important to remember that nothing beats building meaningful relationships with others and developing your skills in communication and empathy – something robots will never be able to do..

Digital Age

Teens are under extra pressure to maintain a positive self-image on the internet, and that means more time is spent on crafting the perfect online identity.

Many spend hours trying to refine their profiles to come off as “cool” in comparison to their peers.

Take Mona and Helen for example – they always have their eye out for the most interesting Facebook friends, making sure only those deemed “cool” appear on their profiles.

Similarly, Brad is careful not to reveal his interest in Harry Potter for fear of being judged by others.

Adolescents also edit their photos with “shrinking software” so they appear slimmer or apply filters that make them look flawless.

It’s no surprise that young people nowadays find themselves easily overwhelmed by attempting to create an untarnished public image online.

The Growing Preference for Texts Over Phone Calls: Convenience or the Expected Availability of Instant Response?

These days, talking on the phone is no longer the communication method of choice.

Instead, people prefer to send instant messages or emails to stay in touch.

For example, Leonora, a chemistry professor, schedules all her appointments via email – something that’s not only convenient but preferred by her friends as well.

Teenagers like Elaine find texting more appealing because “you can think about what you’re going to say”.

This is why people are calling each other less – it gives the impression that it’s a serious or important conversation and takes too much time.

Texting and emailing is just quicker and easier for staying connected with your friends and family on a daily basis.

The Valid Benefits and Difficulties of Staying Connected with Technology


Having a smartphone is now an expectation for many teenagers, and it provides the benefit of keeping them connected to their parents in case of an emergency.

Julia remembered distinctly from when she was eight during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, how much better off she would’ve been if she had a phone to speak with her mother.

But this constant connection also means that we’re expected to be available all the time, which can be quite stressful.

Hope, a real estate broker, often goes hiking in the woods but takes her BlackBerry with her – where her husband calls every 30 minutes just to stay in touch.

And even though some people feel relief when they manage to go out of cell range and get some rest away from their phones, it really isn’t practical or possible in this day and age to truly be Alone Together without our devices.

The Risk of Online Lives Overtaking Real Lives

Online identities can be a source of great freedom for some people, but for others they can feel like an inescapable prison.

For those with physical disabilities or social anxieties, online identities can provide access to experiences that may have formally been closed off to them.

Take the case of the young woman with a prosthetic leg who found a way to practice talking about her situation through creating an online avatar and engaging in virtual relationships.

This gave her the chance to talk about her struggles without feeling judged or pressured, and it was life-changing for her as she learned to accept her new body.

On the flip side, there are those who become so absorbed in their online lives that they forget the rest of the world exists.

A case in point is Adam, a 43-year-old heavily addicted to gaming and unable to reduce his playtime despite working two jobs.

His addiction has reached a point where all of his focus is put on his online identity – with little social contact outside of his games and no personal goals or professional aspirations in sight.

The Stress of Being Watched Online: How Social Media Can Affect Our Mental Health

Social Media

The public nature of our online lives and the permanence of our digital actions can cause a great deal of anxiety for many.

Nineteen-year-old Chris knows this all too well, as he often browses Facebook photos of people he barely knows.

This unpleasant “online stalking” has become part of life for many people, and it’s normal to feel anxious about it.

What if something you put out there comes back to haunt you?

Chris feels this way, as he knows his friends (and others) look at photos of him when they browse social media.

Anything he does can end up online for everyone to see, so he’s always feeling apprehensive.

Similarly, teenaged Brad is very wary of the internet and never posts anything spontaneously – instead choosing his words carefully in an effort to present himself in a good light.

It’s safe to say that the public nature of our online lives and the fact that our activities are recorded forever is a source of stress for many young people today.

Taking a Break from Technology: Why We Need Time Away from Our Devices

In today’s world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by technology and become disconnected from other people.

That’s why many people are taking the time to step away from their devices and reconnect with others on a human level.

Take Brad for example – when he gets too stressed out from all his online obligations, he takes a break from social media and instead reaches out to friends either over the phone or in person.

He believes that it’s worth sacrificing three superficial online conversations for one meaningful face-to-face interaction with another person.

Others like Pattie take this idea even further, choosing not to carry her cell phone with her anymore so that she can disconnect and feel like others can’t reach her at all times.

This kind of intentional break is also beneficial in terms of not having to receive bad news right away – Hillary was thankful that her family couldn’t call her while she was alone when her father suffered a seizure, allowing her some extra time to process before receiving the news surrounded by loved ones.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that despite its convenience, there are still drawbacks associated with being constantly “on” in terms of our digital lives, which is why more and more people are making an effort to take time off and connect with others around them on a human level.

Wrap Up

Alone Together: will offer readers a final summary about the importance of technology in our lives.

This book clearly emphasizes that technology should be used as an enriching tool but not as a replacement for real human relationships.

Many people, especially children and the elderly, are subject to stress from too much dependence on tech gadgets and therefore should try to re-establish meaningful connections on a more human level.

To help ease stress from the idea of always being connected through their phones, it is advised that individuals occasionally leave their phones at home or switch off notifications when they want some personal time.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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