Books  |  ,   |  December 29, 2017

Friendship, Robots, and Social Media: False Friends and Second Selves

Book by Alexis M. Elder.
Published by Routledge.
230 pages.

Various emerging technologies, from social robotics to social media, appeal to our desire for social interactions, while avoiding some of the risks and costs of face-to-face human interaction. But can they offer us real friendship? In this book, Alexis Elder outlines a theory of friendship drawing on Aristotle and contemporary work on social ontology, and then uses it to evaluate the real value of social robotics and emerging social technologies.

In the first part of the book Elder develops a robust and rigorous ontology of friendship: what it is, how it functions, what harms it, and how it relates to familiar ethical and philosophical questions about character, value, and well-being. In Part II she applies this ontology to emerging trends in social robotics and human-robot interaction, including robotic companions for lonely seniors, therapeutic robots used to teach social skills to children on the autism spectrum, and companionate robots currently being developed for consumer markets. Elder articulates the moral hazards presented by these robots, while at the same time acknowledging their real and measurable benefits. In the final section she shifts her focus to connections between real people, especially those enabled by social media. Arguing against critics who have charged that these new communication technologies are weakening our social connections, Elder explores ways in which text messaging, video chats, Facebook, and Snapchat are enabling us to develop, sustain, and enrich our friendship in new and meaningful ways.

Series: Routledge Research in Applied Ethics

Table of Contents

Part I: The Nature and Structure of Friendship
1. Repeatable Reasons, Irreplaceable Friends
2. What Shared Identity Means in Friendship
3. Why Bad People Can’t Be Good Friends
4. How to Harm a Friendship

Part II: Robot ‘Friends’? Social Robotics
5. False Friends and False Coinage
6. What’s Wrong with Robot ‘Friends’ for Lonely Seniors?
7. “Training Wheels” Friends or Substitutes for Social Connection?
8. All in Fun? Personal Companionate Robots

Part III: New Forms of Connection
9. Humans Aren’t Cows: An Aristotelian Defense of Technologically-Mediated Friendship
10. Taking Control of Conversations through Computer-Mediated Communication
11. What Words Can’t Say: Emojis and Other Nonverbal Elements of Computer-Mediated Communication
12. The Moral Import of Medium: Choosing When to Text, Call, Facetime, or Snapchat

About the Author
Alexis M. Elder is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her research focuses on friendship and social technologies. Her publications include “Excellent Online Friendships: An Aristotelian Defense of Social Media” in Ethics and Information Technology, and “Zhuangzi on Friendship and Death” in Southern Journal of Philosophy.