Jonathan Safran Foer’s essay “How Not to Be Alone” explores the topics of the impact of technology and empathy. In exploring these topics, the writer’s overall intention is to draw attention to the negative consequences of modern technology and to promote empathy, even though it is sometimes challenging.
To draw attention to how technology affects people on an emotional level, the writer uses a personal story that shows how his phone influenced his attitude towards a girl crying in public: “The phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection, but it did make ignoring her easier in that moment, and more likely, by comfortably encouraging me to forget my choice to do so.” (ll. 40-44)
To the same end, the writer uses ethos by appealing to the authority of studies that show distracted people are less inclined to care for others: “Psychologists who study empathy and compassion are finding that (...) The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care.” (ll. 50-58)
Another intention is to convince his readers of how important attention and empathy are in society. To achieve this intention, the Foer relies on ethos and pathos. For example, he appeals to the credibility of a French philosopher to argue on the importance of attention: “Simone Weil wrote, ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form ...