These days the internet is a part of the majority of our lives and it is scary to think how easily such an amazing thing like the internet could be manipulated to be used for bad. Roger McNamee is an American businessman and investor who wrote this article for USA Today called I Invested Early in Google and Facebook. Now They Terrify me. McNamee’s overall argument is that social media companies jeopardize public health and democracy. In this paper, I will identify and examine some of the rhetorical strategies used by McNamee and present an explanation of these strategies, as well as, discuss a source, an assumption McNamee makes, and a weakness of McNamee’s argument.
In McNamee’s I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me, the author uses word choice to activate the audience sense of emotions. He used compelling words to make people afraid of social media. As an example, in claim McNamee was discussing that Google and Facebook uses techniques to maintain attention to websites that creates addictive behavior. McNamee uses pathos within this argument to persuade the audience that Google and Facebook is addictive. He compares Google and Facebook, “Like gambling, nicotine, alcohol or heroin,” and even goes on to state that Google and Facebook, “produce short-term happiness with serious negative consequences in the long term.” This is perceived as pathos because he uses highly addictive substances and compares it to the internet which we don’t consider in the same category to create fear and anxiety about social media. He uses these substances with negative connotation to shock the audience in having an emotional response when comparing them to the internet. Another way McNamee used pathos in his word choice of his title. The author uses “Now they terrify me” in his title to draw people in because it is a strong word and it intrigues the audiences. The word “terrify” in the title sets the tone for the article being completely against the internet and social media. The audience also wants to know why Google and Facebook terrify McNamee which makes them read more. McNamee uses pathos in his essay to persuade readers emotions to convince them that social media is addictive and terrifying.
Roger McNamee uses ethos to develop his argument. McNamee about how he is an investor in Facebook and “was an early adviser to Facebook’s team.” This strategy works by getting the audience to put trust in the author and it is effective because it not benefit him by saying his views and it shows he understands what he is talking about when it come to the internet. It is effective because the audience knows he shouldn’t be stating harmful details about the companies he has investments in. McNamee uses ethos to allow the audience to trust him on what he is saying by being a unbiased, reputable source. McNamee also uses countless sources throughout his paper to support his claims. The majority were well known newspapers and magazines like the Washington Post, New York Times, Forbes Magazine, and USA Today. Using a wide variety of sources that are prestigious in the audience’s mind. The author uses them because the majority of his argument doesn’t rely on scientific studies or reports so he must use well respected and established to strengthen his claims. The lack of scientific research makes his claims weaker even with the large amount of respected resources that backup his claims and its is a major weakness. McNamee uses his background in technology and well known sources to convince the audience that his claims are true.
An assumption McNamee makes is that Google, Youtube, and Facebook is all they want to do is make money. It may be true, but these websites weren’t created with the intent to make profit. Facebook was originally invented to connect students together on Harvard’s campus, Google was created to organize information on the internet, and Youtube was created to access videos easier. So when did these websites’ motives change from betterment of society to profit based and, “a menace to public health and to democracy”. McNamee never addresses this phase in the company’s existence, he makes it seem that these companies have and always will be profit based. This assumption is essentially the problem McNamee is trying to address, that if they weren’t profit based then social media wouldn’t be so addictive to keep us on it and ads wouldn’t need to be as targeted. THough social media may be profit based how do we know if its for actual profit or for the betterment of the website if McNamee did not address that point.
In McNamee’s essay he uses an article from USA Today, the same place McNamee’s piece was published, as evidence for the authors claim that teens are targeted by advertisers because of their depression. McNamee is using another opinion essay to strengthen his claim. In his essay he claims that, “Facebook told advertisers that they had the ability to target teens who were sad or depressed,” and cited Jessica Guynn and her article called Facebook can tell when teens feel insecure. In the article she blatantly says, “Advertisers cannot target individuals based on how they are feeling,” but can target specific age groups. They are targeting all teens by showing certain ads at certain times, but all teens are being targeted. The depressed teens may be more interested in the ad, but all teens are being targeted because they are seen as easily manipulated into buying products not because they are depressed. Not only is there no scientific evidence for this claim, the source McNamee uses doesn’t provide enough evidence itself to say that Facebook is targeting depressed teens.
A weakness in McNamee’s work is when he compared technology, like Facebook and Youtube, and religion. This analogy is misleading the audience. There are some similarities like the mass amount of people involved and you may consider that by going on the website is a sort of ritual which you associate with religion, but technology is missing an important part that a religion needs. A religion needs a belief that connects people, whether that be a creation story or the purpose of the universe. Technology has a mixture of beliefs and connects them all together, it also doesn’t push religion of beliefs onto people. Another part of religion that Facebook and Youtube have that is different is that Facebook and Youtube are part of the physical world and religion is part of the spiritual or metaphysical world. Technology is used by people to do many different things, things that have nothing to do with any aspects of belief, and religion has a lot to do with this you can’t see and need to believe. There are too many strong differences to uses the analogy comparing technology to religion which makes this a weakness in McNamee’s essay.
The significance of McNamee’s article is that most people use social media and its important understand how social media could be influencing you. He stresses that vast amounts of data compiled by social media companies use to influence you. I think this article was very strong on concepts and pathos, but overall it didn’t show me any actual evidence that democracy or public health was truly at stake. This paper demonstrates the value of rhetorical strategies, and by paying close attention to the way authors use word choice we can see that pathos can be a strong tool to persuade the audience.