Sunday, February 5, 2017

Facebook and Philosophy

"Facebook is a force that has changed the way we engage with the world." 
~Soph Laugh
An Experiment
It started as an experiment, a promise to myself. To search for wisdom, find my truth, and stick to it. So, I started a blog. Very shortly into my Socratic exploration, I had an epiphany. I liked humor and I enjoyed poking fun at that which we call "knowledge."
I was convinced the path to enlightenment was hidden in the paradoxical things that make us laugh the hardest.
An indecency decently put is the thing we laugh at hardest. ~Cicero
Happy Thoughts Travel Fast (HTTF) was born ... and along with it, the public identity known as Sophy Laughing (Soph Laugh, for short).
Starting on April 17, 2011, I traveled with Socrates in search of wisdom, posting my philosophically inspired humor articles on Facebook, today's Agora of Athens. In doing so, I uncovered what seems to be the spirit of the times, with all its impulses that drive society forward, no longer separated by unbridged chasms of space.
What did I learn?
People across nations believe in following their heart's desire without overstepping the boundaries of right.
This mindset reflects a Confucian view of truth in relation to duty. Recorded in the journals of Confucius's pupils, the Analects state that Confucius thought education was the key to everything: A person should be so deep in study that he forgets to eat, so full of joy in learning that he ignores all practical worries, and so busy acquiring knowledge that he does not notice old age coming on.
Education was the process whereby civilization, and the minds and bodies of those privileged to enjoy it, breathed and lived.
According to onlinemba: 57% of FB users have "some college" and earn between $50-100k USD annually. From this perspective, there seems to be a correlation between people who value education and personal wealth, but not at the cost of losing touch with friends and loved ones (and themselves).
A Truth Soothsayer's Convention
One of the chief complaints on FB is the propagation of false information. Each day freshly transcribed versions of subjective perspective are emotively expressed. Similar to language used in newspapers, political speeches, advertising copy, literature and conversation, typical banners include:
Facebook (Unspoken) Laws
Like the first five books of the Torah, or Jewish Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament, Facebook has it's own set of laws ... instruction, teaching, and guidance.
Good advice earnestly shared is the basis of public posts on anything from yoga and vegan diets to hopes and dreams, for ourselves and for our growing together global community.
No longer exiled from our neighbors, with a simple scroll of the screen we can now peer into someone else's world ... and with a simple click, transmit something of our own in return.
United by a passion for family, well-being, and higher meaning, 1.79 billion people are united by a new type of education: Societal Learning.
The Third Way
Human advancement drives development, which over time evolves and changes in association with our collective and individual successes and failures. It seems clear to me that no matter the economical, political, legal or intellectual institutions we erect for sustainable development, FB and other social media sites are the modern day Agoras, the place where society and economy rest and meet - and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Transforming Truth Into Money
Facebook's is making more money than ever. Between July and September 2016, FB revealed that it made $7bn in revenue - a 59% increase from 2015. The average revenue per user was thus $4.01.
With FB's market value about $350 billion and estimated to someday be worth a whopping $1 trillion, one tangible truth I uncovered in my philosophical quest was that independent of what FB is or is not for each user: modern-day agoras (social media platforms) remain one of the most impressive business models ever created. Our species have been meeting in squares and centres since the dawn of socializing.
The Power of "like" is a Societal Game Changer
Facebook demographics are evolving societal class structures. In 2015, 56% of society fell into the social category of low income, 22% were somewhere in the middle, and only 7% in the upper category. Societal classes are thus divided into three:
  1. Upper class
  2. Middle Class
  3. Lower Class
However, thanks to social media, we now have a 4th category: The Connected Class.
The Connected Class transcends typical income groups, connecting people by common interest. Whatever one's individually held truth, the Connected Class is now a formidable group, with the power to influence perspectives on the global economy, our systems of government and the laws we enact.

Laughter connects you with people. It's almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or sense of social hierarchy when you're just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy."

~John Cleese
With Facebook accounting for 5.5% of all time spent online (in the U.S. in November 2015), it is no wonder that Facebook and other global social programs, such as WeChat is changing the way we 'think' about world, which in turn affects how we engage with the world.
Which brings me back, full circle back to my Socratic-inspired quest for wisdom, and whether or not enlightenment could be found in a cookie. In a way, enlightenment really was found in humor - in the sprinkles on the cake - simply because I discovered what humor meant to me and how much I truly value its healing force.
But to understand humor, I had to practice humor. To practice humor, I had to kick back and relax and share some jokes with a few thousand of my closest online friends.
Facebook is its own philosophy: A system of philosophical thought on the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially in relation to each person's place in society.
Facebook users are Socratic in the sense that each post offers an opportunity to explore virtue and what it means to live a good life. No doubt Socrates would have been on Facebook had it been available to the Ancient Greeks. I wonder how many followers his posts would have touched or inspired, and whether or not he would have unfriended Aristophanes for publishing The Clouds.

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