Reclaiming Care and Privacy in the Age of Social Media

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 92:45-66 (2022)
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Social media has invaded our private, professional, and public lives. While corporations continue to portray social media as a celebration of self-expression and freedom, public opinion, by contrast, seems to have decidedly turned against social media. Yet we continue to use it just the same. What is social media, and how should we live with it? Is it the promise of a happier and more interconnected humanity, or a vehicle for toxic self-promotion? In this essay I examine the very structure of social media communications in order to sketch how we should engage with social media. Social media communications are, I argue, a public communication of private content. This allows connections to be made with others in ways that would not otherwise be possible; however, it also submits the private to a status competition, which in turn is linked to mental health challenges. A ‘virtuous’ engagement with social media means being aware of these dynamics, and choosing to subordinate social media to other, more important goods.

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Hugh Desmond
Leibniz Universität Hannover


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