Rhetorical Analysis Assignment #2
In an article titled “I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me.” by Roger McNamee, he argues that websites sites like Facebook and Google are corrupting the minds of people. McNamee is an American businessman who specializes in investing in technology. This background gives McNamee credibility and authority in his writing about things like Facebook. He states that Facebook and websites like it exploit human nature and addictive behaviors to earn more revenue. This makes these sites unmoral and a harmful asset to society. Despite McNamee not being known as a professional writer, he uses effective rhetorical strategies such as Pathos and Exemplification to persuade his audience towards his position. I will be discussing how these strategies prove to be effective as well as the assumptions and weaknesses McNamee makes in his article. This will help us further understand how important the internet really is and the precautions that should be used when on it.
One strategy McNamee uses to persuade his readers is pathos. Pathos is a method of rhetorical writing that uses emotion to appeal to the audience. Good use of this strategy activates a reader’s emotions which causes them to be influenced towards the author’s point of view. McNamee does this brilliantly in his article titled, “I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me.” An example comes when McName talks about how Google and Facebook control the minds of people. He states, “Like gambling, nicotine, alcohol or heroin, Facebook and Google — most importantly through its YouTube subsidiary — produce short-term happiness with serious negative consequences in the long term” (McNamee). By comparing social media to addictive and dangerous drugs, McNamee is appealing to the readers negative emotions. Since many people have strong unpleasant experiences with these drugs, McNamee uses this in his favor to explain that social media is a lot like these drugs and should be used with caution. The things McNamee uses to compare social media too are also highly addictive. He chooses these four items to warn the audience that they can become addicted to social media, which is another stab at the reader’s emotions. Pathos is an extremely effective strategy when trying to persuade an audience and McNamee provides an impressive example of it in his article.
Another rhetorical strategy that McNamee uses is exemplification. The use of examples can be very effective because they provide hard evidence that supports an author’s claim. In “I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me” McNamee uses an example of when Facebook decided to target teens who were depressed because they were “more susceptible to advertising”(McNamee). This story is a compelling work of rhetoric by McNamee. Facebook trying to make money off of mental health problems is sure to capture the audience’s attention as well as make them think badly of the social media company. Another attack on Facebook comes later in the article. McNamee gives an example that states, “One firm was caught using Facebook tools to spy on law abiding citizens.” The readers now have received two examples of Facebook causing problems within our society. The first one was used to show how Facebook is doing harm as a company and the second displayed how the site can be used for harmful purposes. Examples like these give proof of McNamee’s claim which is what makes them so rhetorically effective.
As I discussed previously, within his article, McNamee talks about a story done in Australia, “where someone at Facebook told advertisers that they had the ability to target teens who were sad or depressed, which made them more susceptible to advertising” (McNamee). This story is used as evidence about how Facebook cares more about their revenue than they do about the well-being of other people, especially teens. Other than putting Facebook in a bad light, this outside reference that McNamee uses helps him persuade his audience with efficiency. Talking about such a sensitive topic as teen depression is extremely powerful and if nothing else, is sure to capture the audience’s attention. McNamee then transitions his explanation of this source into one of his most effective pieces of rhetoric, which is when he calls Facebook out for “brain hacking.” The word choice in this phrase as well as the emotions it evokes in his reader’s makes it one of the most important pieces of rhetoric in his article. This is all set up by the introduction of the outside story from Australia. The source is essential to McNamee’s main argument and him using it proves just how rhetorically he writes about the effects of Facebook and other big internet corporations.
A main strength of McNamee’s writing skills is his use of comparisons and examples that easily capture the reader’s thought as well as the point he’s trying to make. The evidence talked about earlier that compare Facebook to addictive things and talk about how Facebook takes advantage of depressed teens are examples of this. Words like “depressed” and “heroin” raise red flags to a reader and immediately explain to them just how important the situation is. Another strength of McNamee is that he doesn’t assume much about his reader’s. McNamee explains everything he writes about thoroughly and provides context as to why he is writing about the topic. An example of this is when he explains how sites like Facebook and Google make their money, instead of assuming that that audience knows. In a concise statement early in the article, McNamee says, “Facebook and Google get their revenue from advertising, the effectiveness of which depends on gaining and maintaining consumer attention” (McNamee). This context provides readers with necessary background information that is essential to understanding McNamee’s central argument as well as all his claims. Without it, reader’s might feel lost as to why Facebook cares so much about advertising and capturing the interest of people online. Good writers assume as little as they can about the audience they are writing to and that’s what McNamee does in this article.
Personally, I agree with McNamee’s overall argument, but only about Facebook. From the Zuckerberg scandals, I can tell that something fishy is taking part within the company. I have seen this Facebook corruption first hand with my mother. In a matter of a year or so she went from not knowing anything about social media to a Facebook junkie. Now she uses the site at least once a day and tells me she feels very disconnected without it. Google on the other hand seems like a moral company. They make using the internet simple and I don’t see many advertisements other than for the products they make like the GoogleHome and their Pixel iphone. McNamee’s argument showed me that effective arguments connect with readers and appeal to their emotions. It makes the topic being discussed seem more important and urgent then it might actually be. There are ways to be rhetorical that don’t use Pathos or Exemplification, but I think that these are some of the most effective and have the biggest impact on the readers.
McNamee, Roger. “I Invested Early in Google and Facebook. Now They Terrify Me.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 10 Aug. 2017, http://www.usatoday.com/story/ opinion/2017/08/08/my-google-and-facebook-investments-made-fortune-but-now-they-menace/543755001/