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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More GRE Practice

I have 45 minutes to develop an essay in response to the following quote. The essay is graded on a scale of 1-6 in terms of cogency, use of language, persuasiveness, use of example, fluidity, etc.

"Both the development of technilogical tools and the uses to which humanity has put them have created modern civilizations in which loneliness is ever-increasing."

Starting now:
In my lifetime, I have seen the invention and rise of the internet and all it has spawned. I have also witnessed an evolution from rotary phones to touchtone phones to cordless phones to cell phones to cell phones with MP3 players, cameras, internet capability, etc. In other words, in my thirty years on earth there has been an explosion of technological development possibly unrivaled by any in history in terms of speed and scope. There is no doubt that these advances, and the way in which they have been used, have changed the landscape of society, and changed the way that people interact on a daily basis. Can we say, though, that this advancement has led to a society where loneliness is increasing as well?
If one looks at a growing trend in aJapan, a country that contains some of the most crowded cities on earth, one might well say that loneliness is, in fact, on the increase. The growing trend involves people who have become afraid to leave their homes or apartments. They cease seeing people. They pay for things using their computers or telephones, and have groceries and other personal needs delivered to their door. In some cases, these people do not have contact with the outside world for years. However, in looking at this same trend, one finds the difficulty with saying that loneliness is one the rise. If the people have chosen to do this, can they be said to be lonely? That one is lonely does not automatically follow from the statement that one is alone. Rather, this trend would indicate that it is physical isolation, and not loneliness that is on the rise. Several trends also show that, as opposed to people becoming lonelier, they are using technology such as email, instant messengers, chat services, and blog pages to find friends all over the world, of backgrounds much more diverse than what might have been possible before the advent of such technology.
Chat rooms and web services like, which millions of people use to keep in contact wth or find new friends, are ordinary examples of people using technology to bring themselves closer to others, even if they are not able to meet physically at a given moment. These services can be used for more, though - they can be used to combat loneliness. A couple that is separated due to work or other circumstance can use these free technologies to have long real time conversations. What's more, they can use web cameras to see each other. This would have been impossible before.
The advent of modern technologies also benefit those who might have been predisposed to loneliness in an earlier time. For example, people who in the past may have been isolated by their sexual desires or interests, are able to use the internet to find similar people, and they are able to do it with the comfort of being anonymous. What's more, and to go away for a moment from the use of only computer-based examples, those with physical deformities or handicaps are better equipped to face society and to have the confidence to meet people and contribute than ever before thanks to advances in medical technologies.
Some might argue that even though the new technologies that exist can be used in a way that links people in ways they could not have before, the technology and the physical-isolation that it sometimes brings about can not replace physical contact. They might also say that the fact that there are more people lonely today is evident by a rise in the number of people using anti-depressants and mood-stabilizing drugs on a daily basis. This is a problem, however, because it replaces the word loneliness with depression - two things which are often linked, but are not the same, and this rise in a use of anti-depressants can not be directly linked to technology.
Earlier, I looked at a trend in Japan wherein people are choosing to isolate themselves from the world. It seems fitting to return to Japan in an effort to conclude this essay. In the past few years, there has been a rise in group suicides around the country. People who feel depressed enough to kill themselves use the internet to find other people who want to die, but who do not want to die alone. Sometimes they die in pairs, sometimes in groups of three or four. While this is a morbid example, it is a final illustration that while technology may be fueling a rise in physical isolation, it is also being used to bring people closer together.

OK, time is up. If anybody wants to grade me, that would be great. I dont think I did so well with this one...and only six days to go before the test. Ack.


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