Thanks. It’s all fine, we’re all surviving. There's another week of classes, and then we have the final exams for the module, three days of break, and then the second module starts in earnest. There are a fair few late nights ahead in my future. Including tonight. Good thing there’s coffee (and a tub of tiramisu-flavoured ice cream).
That said, I’ve been trying to get out and see what I can of Dallas whilst I can, the weather here is fantastic, now that the summer heat has dissipated. We took a tour of AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) on Friday, which was good fun. They let us run around on the field and dress up in football gear. As a rugby fan there’s something awfully uncomfortable and unnerving about wearing pads and helmets. The place is huge though, with about the same capacity as the MCG. You can’t compare them though, it’s kind of like comparing a megachurch with a Gothic cathedral. They’re both impressive spaces for the same purpose (and considered sacred), but so very different in age and style.
A group of us also went along to see “Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Winspear. It’s essentially the prequel to Peter Pan, aimed at an adult audience. It was both hilarious and touching, with a great cast and production. Hopefully they’ll tour it to Australia one day.
Anyways, what does this all have to do with philosophy? Nothing really, but during the week my friend and fellow MBA student Travis was on a study break when he overheard a group of sorority girls, without any sense of irony, use “YOLO” in conversation (for the more refined members of my readership, it’s internet shorthand for “you only live once”). In a fit of confected rage, he posted it on Facebook, which prompted a semi-serious response on my part, linking the term with the teachings of Epicurus, specifically his Tetrapharmakos:
Don't fear god,
Don't worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure
In other words, YOLO.
But it got me thinking, what social networks would match with philosophers if they were alive today? Each social network has its niche, and they way that they operate reflects a particular set of values or worldview. As such, in theory, you can link them with philosophers who held similar values or reflected that niche.
The following list is by no means exhaustive or accurate. I’m not a philosophy graduate, just someone with a passing interest. Sad fact - I actually remember my philosophers using the following song:
The Socially Networked Philosophers
This one’s pretty obvious. The most well known exponent of the Stoic school (sorry Cato) is remembered by his “Meditations”, a collection of short musings on life and meaning. Perfect for 140 character screams at the æther intended at nobody in particular. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s subtweeting in a few of them.
LinkedIn – Aristotle
Perhaps a more controversial choice. However, he delivered extensive discourses on ethics and politics, which both encapsulate the concepts of self-improvement and of the primacy of the community (that is the city and its economy) over the family or the individual. In that sense, he seems perfect for a social network that is all about connecting with coworkers, getting jobs, and posting articles about psychometric testing.
Facebook/Instagram – Epicurus
A social network devoted to friendship, poking selfies and photos of food? That sounds like one for the hedonists. And while we nowadays associate hedonism with excess, the original hedonists, and particularly Epicurus, were interested in living a life free from fear and bodily pain. Never mind that he also advocated near total abstention in many things (which would be very un-Facebookish). But hey, it’s my list, and I’m sticking the hedonist with the hedonist network.
Google+ – Socrates
Hangouts, dialogues, same thing really. But in seriousness, a social network full of discussions and arguments? Socrates would have loved it. But Plato would be the one who wrote all about it on his blog. That's a philosophy joke by the way.
That’s all I’ve got for now, I’ve had a few other ideas (I can’t help but think Nietzsche would be trolling on XBOX Live, and Montaigne would dig Path), but am missing some notable networks here (Pinterest being the biggest exception). Thoughts in the comments.
In the meantime, if you want to see some actual philosophy on a social network, check out Alain de Botton’s Twitter account. Marcus Aurelius would be proud.
And for a more serious treatment of the demographics of the social networks, check out this article.
And if you want to check out some hilarious fake philosophy, there’s always Kim Kierkegaardashian, the fusion of Søren Kierkegaard and Kim Kardashian. Disturbingly funny.