A Philosophical Examination of the Strategic and Distorted Nature of Social Media through the Frameworks of Plato, Habermas, and Kierkegaard
Bennett, Katherine E.
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This essay focuses on the dangerous nature of social media through an analysis of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Habermas, and Kierkegaard. Plato’s allegory represents the imagistic nature of social media. This is an incomplete representation of the nature of reality for the individual. The only way to complete this form of reality is to introduce conversation and dialogues that help the individual to understand the nature of the shadows. These dialogues can be either mutually-oriented and between two interlocutors or strategically oriented or result in a systematic distortion of communication. Habermas theorized that communicative action and an open dialogue was of the utmost important when engaging in a dialogue. If communicative action was not achieved, then language would be used either strategically (an attempt to get something from the hearer) or systematic distortion of communication (the internalization of speech utterances being made that affects the identity of the hearer). Habermas did not recognize that language could be used as a form of social power. Therefore, this essay also turns to Bordieu, in order to clarify that language can be used as a social or symbolic power that results in oppression. Furthermore, Bourdieu believed language to be solely reliant upon the pragmatic context (fluctuation of tone, facial expressions, ect…); whereas, Habermas relied on the semantic rules of speech utterances being made (what is a promise or assertion, what makes an utterance valid …). Recanati synthesized both theories of Bourdieu and Habermas, claiming that both the pragmatic context and the semantic aspects of a speech utterance are necessary for understanding the speech utterance. Finally, after establishing an understanding of the innately dangerous nature of captions attached to misleading photos, social media is analyzed in terms of Kierkegaard’s Present Age leveling. This analysis shows that social media allows the user to remove the significance of a post being made the second they passively like the photo and continue scrolling. Ultimately, the goal of this essay is to both alert and provide the reader with the ability to recognize the innately strategic and misleading nature of social media.