Would Plato tweet? The Ancient Greek Guide to Social Media
But if you feel that almost everyone is wrong and distrust most influencers, then how do we get to what is right? On the other hand, if the content is sincere in the pursuit and expression of objective truth, how do we get it? And is there such a truth?
Questions like these permeated Plato’s cultural scene. The Sophiste Protagoras is said to have advocated a theory of “relativism” which essentially suggests that we are limited to our own subjective construction of reality due to our different individual perceptions.
One can see how this thesis is illustrated through aspects of the social media experience as we scroll through a seeming infinity of information, but always within the confines of our private information bubbles.
Plato tried to refute Protagorean relativism and to find a criterion for objective truth. When he wrote his “Republic”, he envisioned an ideal society, organized under the leadership of the one person who can read this pristine truth out of the tangle of public opinion – the philosopher.
To combat the problem of distinguishing desirable from undesirable information – good from bad influencers – Plato introduced an infamous level of censorship in his theoretical city. Jenny Jenkins of Swansea University has speculated on whether he would have allowed citizens to use Facebook and suggested that it would have been a resounding “no”. “Facebook has no intention of promoting morality or particularly educating its users,” she writes, “so I think Plato would have disapproved of it for that reason alone.”
Rather, Plato suggested that education and entertainment and discourse in general should be strictly regulated, with virtually all independent arts suppressed. If it does not rationally promote the good of the community, forbid it. On its ideal platform, the only fully authorized content creator is the state, and that content is “the form of the good” as deduced from the knowledge of philosophy.