Analysis of Argument in Orenstein’s "I Tweet, Therefore I Am,"
When you tweet, do you tweet for yourself? Are you constantly wondering what would make a good tweet? In Peggy Orenstein’s article “I Tweet, Therefore I Am,” she claims that people should tweet for themselves and not for their followers because it makes everyone happier, that is, assuming they know what twitter is and actually have followers. This article was featured in The New York Times, which takes a somewhat liberal stance, and is also published online as America’s most widely read newspaper. The intended audience for this article were the readers of the Times, most of which are businessmen and politicians between ages 30-35. However, it reaches a younger audience as well. . It was written on July 30th 2010 and printed on March 14th 2011. Through the use of tone shift, statistics, rhetorical questions, and other tools author Peggy Orenstein creates an emotional appeal and establishes logos to effectively convince these readers to tweet for themselves. A possible use of false authority makes her appeal to ethos less effective, but it is balanced out with expert opinions and identification with the readers.
The relevance of this article creates a logical appeal. This article came out at a time of Kairos. Twitter was created March of 2006, but started to become really popular in 2010 with the “New Twitter Experience” and “in February 2010, Twitter users were sending out 50 million tweets per day.” (Wikipedia) This article came out in the summer of 2010, when the hype of twitter was just getting steam, and it’s only gotten bigger. It was the opportune moment to suggest something to tweet about because people were still trying to figure out what to say. The significance of Orenstein’s argument makes it effective in convincing the reader to tweet for themselves. She is saying something that matters to the people right at the time. She chose to write about twitter for the New York Times because it was to the appropriate people under the perfect circumstances. She accomplishes logos by effectively using Kairos to convince the reader to tweet for themselves.
Another way author Peggy Orenstein establishes logos effectively to convince the reader to become one with twitter is by using statistics. When considering how many people are empathetic in their tweets, the article reads: “in an analysis of 72 studies performed on nearly 14,000 college students between 1979 and 2009, researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found a drop in that trait, with the sharpest decline occurring since 2000.” (Orenstein) She uses this statistic to claim “Social media may not have instigated that trend, but by encouraging self-promotion over self-awareness, they may well be accelerating it.” (Orenstein) The numbers in the statistic automatically strike an appeal to logos and the author steers the attention of the reader to how much empathy has declined in people since 1979. She seeks to evoke empathy from the reader now by drawing it out of them. It is effective in that it pushes readers to be more self-aware and less self-promoting as many politicians and business owners are. It is effective for the audience it is geared towards.
Author Peggy Orenstein forms Ethos effectively with point of view to gain the audience’s trust. Although she came late to twitter, she learned to use it quickly to share not only her opinions on important issues, but also situations from her everyday life as a mother. This suggests that she is well informed and experienced. Her comment about “human rights abuses against women in Guatemala” (Orenstein) also back-up her informed nature. This helps her gain the trust of women. The fact that she is a mother and connected to social media also helps her to be seen as a “cool mom.” By identifying not only with the main audience but also discourse community, Orenstein establishes ethos that ultimately makes her argument to unite our lives with twitter more effective.
Although at first the author’s opinions may seem like False Authority, she promotes ethical appeal with Authoritative Voice by citing expert opinions, such as “the sociologist Erving Goffman” who “famously argued that all of life is performance,” and “Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T.,” who “interviewed more than 400 children and parents about their use of social media and cellphones.” (Orenstein) This was the readers know that there are other credible sources who also have similar opinions and eliminates the ethical fallacy of false authority. This helps the audience trust the author more, making her appeal to ethos effective in convincing them to tweet for themselves.
Her appeal to pathos is also effective because it evokes emotions of nostalgia and peace in the audience without being too overpowering. The subtle hints of relaxation establishes the tone by her soft adjectives. The article is introduced on a “lazy Saturday morning,” as Peggy and her daughter “lolled” on the lawn, “snacking… listening” and “sprawled” out across the lawn in a “quintessential” summer moment. These words create a relaxed tone as the reader imagines themselves in a care-free state. It makes the reader happy and thinking “excitedly” about the perfect opportunity for a tweet. This is effective because Peggy is getting the reader to focus on themselves in this moment and what they want. The positive tone convinces the reader that they should tweet for themselves more often because it seems like a happy thing to do.
Later in the article, Orenstein uses tone shift to emphasize the point of not tweeting for others and this tool also achieves pathos. It says “The risk of the performance culture, of the packaged self, is that it erodes the very relationships it purports to create, and alienates us from our own humanity.” (Orenstein) This illustrates her use of tone shift from soft adjectives to harsh, discordant verbs such as “erode” and “alienate.” It effectively sways the reader away from becoming the “packaged self” and urges them to go back to the relaxed tone of tweeting for themselves. She uses cacophony in a way that effectively detracts the reader from being disconnected with technology, and instead urges them to get connected.
Orenstein utilizes figurative language such as a metaphor for emotional charm. She alludes to Shakespeare when she uses the comparison of “If all the world’s a stage, it has now become a reality TV show: we mere players are not just aware of the camera; we mug for it.” (Orenstein) This comparison of twitter to reality TV and stage performances is aimed to catch the attention of the reader and convince them not to act like they’re on some show. Orenstein wants the audience to act for themselves, and she refers to a historically famous writer to do it. This is effective in convincing most readers not to be “mere players,” because after all, who doesn’t love Shakespere? She successfully strays the reader away from tweeting for others by hinting that it is akin to a criminal act in which they have to pose for the “mug” shot.
Another way she formulates pathos is by using rhetorical questions. She asks herself what she is feeling while she sits outside with her daughter; “Was it my joy at being a mother? Nostalgia for my own childhood summers?” (Orenstein) Her purpose is to cause the reader to question what they themselves are feeling. It brings out emotion in the reader and makes the article more memorable and the argument more convincing. Orenstein wants the reader to really consider how they feel next time they tweet.
Finally, Orenstein appeals to pathos by using a full-circle ending. The article starts off “in a recent lazy Saturday morning, my daughter and I lolled on a blanket in our front yard… listening to a download of EB White,” and ends with “next time I find myself lying on the grass, stringing daisy chains and listening to EB White…” (Orenstein) This gives the article a sense of closure. The purpose is to bring the reader to the beginning and re-consider their opinion on the issue. Hopefully by this time they are convinced that twitter is more for themselves than for their followers. The author wants to cause the reader to feel satisfied with the article. Giving the audience a sense of conclusion effectively urges them to tweet for themselves next time.
In conclusion, Peggy Orenstein’s argument in “I Tweet, Therefore I Am,” is ultimately effective in the purpose of convincing the readers to tweet for themselves. It is supportive of becoming “one” with twitter and just going with the flow rather than worrying about what others will think of what you have to say, when they’re probably just as worried as you are. It’s like when women worry about what they wear. Most everyone else is too focused on themselves to notice anyways, so if you’re going to dress up, do it for yourself because it makes you feel good. The author assumes that if it makes you feel good, it will probably make others feel good too. She effectively convinces us to tweet for ourselves. It reaches the intended audience and strikes their emotional, logical, and ethical appeals. Next time the reader tweets, they’ll probably think more about what they want to say and less about what their followers want to hear.
1. Orenstein, Peggy. “I Tweet, Therefore I Am.” The New York Times 30 July 2010: MM11. Print. 14 Mar. 2011. Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company.
2. "The New York Times." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
3. "Who Is the New York Times Target Audience?" - Ask.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.