Does social media make us less than human? Human nature as a social object

I was fascinated by the idea of social object as used on this blog. The author developed the idea to include the concept of being in the world.  In this idea, our understanding is shaped by being as subject and object.  Yet, that duality is not enough as it is transcended by what Heidegger called dasein (being-there).  The concept suggests that our authentic experience is found by being-there in the social object.  What this suggests is that social media does not allow us to be there, but rather removes us from the experience.

If our humanity is found or defined in large part by being in the world, that is what makes us human, then that which removes us from this physical world could be seen to reduce our humanity.  When I say this, I am referring to the physical world and not our spiritual.  We are physical and spiritual beings to the extent we in our humanity we recognise divinity and degeneracy.  In short, we exist in a state between God and animals.  Yet, to the extent our spiritual life defines our humanity, our physical existence, that is being alive in the world, remains its foundation.  In other words, we have to be alive to be followers of Christ.  Let us return to the main point.

If we use social media are we removing ourselves from the world?  By that, does social media reduce our humanity because our humanity is reflected by the tools we use?  In using extended social media tools are we creating a barrier to others even though we may contact them more than ever. . Heidegger spoke of mediating our lives through social objects.  In many ways he was a prophet of the social media.  As he famously said, “Homelessness is becoming the fate of the world.”  Man is homeless in the world where social media allows them to be “at home” anywhere.  We no longer have a home if our home is within the social medium.

When we mediate ourselves through social objects to understand ourselves and others, it would seem we lose something of ourselves.  By that I mean, we appear on the cusp of being unable to understand each other or talk to each other without a media interface.  To use an extreme example Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were tweeting to each other while in the same room.

If Heidegger is correct, in his view that we mediate our existence through social objects, does that simply return us to a pre-modern era? By that I mean, before we had Socratic philosophy, people had a different understanding of themselves and the objects around them. If we have new social objects that mediate our existence, in this case social media devices, does it further reduce our ability, to experience nature as a way to define our humanity? The question, I suppose is what is nature in a mediated world?  Can we understand nature without social objects? If we can no longer understand nature without socially mediated objects, do we lose touch with the framework for our humanity?

I suppose, I should put this directly to ask what is nature, or a natural object, if everything is (or can be) a social object? The question may seem simple because we think we know what nature is. Yet, if nature, especially human nature, is only known through social media, what is it?  I would suggest that we need to return to nature, our human nature, by trying to understand ourselves and our world through or common experience in the world.  Instead of trying to mediate our experience through social objects, we should try to regain our understanding of what it means to live in the world before we try to mediate it.

If we can, to paraphrase Socrates, find our way to the market perhaps we will find ourselves by talking with others about what is the best way to live.  Perhaps it is too late, given I am writing this blog, which is a social mediated experience, to return to the market. However, if we are to keep our humanity, we need to find a way to recover our ability to talk about the good, politics, and the best way to live.


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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3 Responses to Does social media make us less than human? Human nature as a social object

  1. Pingback: Notes on Heidegger: Dasein. « Loftier Musings

  2. Toma says:

    It’s too early to say for sure, but for now, yes. We still see people unwilling to use their real identities online, so the virtual world and it’s actual place and impact remain unclear. When people start to use their real identities online, as Facebook and Google are constantly pushing us to do, it will be a clearer extension of our humanity. People rarely steal when someone is watching, and they are rarely publicly inhumane. Anonymity makes inhumanity fare easier to execute.

    • Toma,
      Thanks for the response. I am not sure that anonymity is the issue. I think that social media removes us and we begin to see others differently and we begin to act differently. In time, we begin to imagine human nature, or what we expect of it, differently. To be sure, the issue is deeper than social media becuase it gets back to how we relate to technology. However, I would argue that such a question is secondary to understanding who we are. What does it mean to be human these days? If being online is one way we understand people to be human, then those offline may start to be seen as less human. I am not so sure that we are now too sophisticated to think that way and thus to act that way. Time will tell.

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