Social Media has a tendency to cultivate a form of despair, when I say despair I really mean illusion, an illusion of what is authentic what is worthwhile for the soul of the individual, we can see these manifestations when a young individual first comes across social media, for example: Instagram, they are or we in general are shown examples of immediacy, examples of what it is to be finite, this obsession with finitude, the simplistically earthy finite conception of the physical, the temporal or the cultivation of temporal existences, prudent calculations of amassed wealth, enterprise, narrowness, confinement, fundamentally: a forgetting of the self, being busied by the crowd and horde of others that are amassed equally in this cultivated illusion, where are own conception of what it is to be a true self turns unconscious and muddied, with the business of the world we pawn ourselves of to the world and there seems to be a fundamental fear of conscious selfhood.
What am i really saying here? Well, we as people live consistently in the inability to understand the true self, in most directions we turn to; despair arises whereby such an arise effects our ability to become our true selves thus it can be seen that we are always living in a form of despair, where our truest selves are being neglected for something else and thus even without knowing it we encapsulate ourselves in a form of despair.
Kierkegaard wrote a book called the sickness unto death, the sickness he refers to in the book is not of a physical sickness but one of internal psychological despair, to kierkegaard one is in despair when one does not align themselves with God’s plan of the self, but when he refers to God it’s in the direction of the category of particularity, sheer oneness and singleness not the christian sense of oneness in unity with others, this is why he is referred to as the first existentialist, but to get to the point, this book is very much the precursor to Albert Camus’s the myth of sisyphus, what kierkegaard does is outlines a phenological psychology of the self, he identifies different forms of despair which we fall into that pull us further away from becoming our true self or what you could call our spirit. So in this video I am going to outline why kierkegaard would be against many many aspects of social media but also how understanding kierkegaard’s view of the self we can become better people and to be more in line with our true selves.
Kierkegaard saw that the self on a phenomenological level was a conscious synthesis between finitude and infinitude, he says that in life we as a humanity are at a constant tension between these two opposing factors, another dichotomy which he raises is that of possibility and necessity also, again he says for the purposes of becoming oneself possibility and necessity are equally essential, that there needs to a balance, if there is an over tipping of either possibility, necessity, finitide or infinitude we fall into another form of despair in relation to the self, this is what he calls the forms of sickness or the forms of despair.
Kierkegaard saw that there was 3 major forms of despair which then separated out into further sub structures
1st being unconscious in despair of having a self:
Know, in relation to this kierkegaard saw that the common view of despair was extremely superficial and something that goes no further then the appearances, I quote:
“It assumes that every man knows best himself whether or not he is in despair. So that whoever says he is in despair is assumed to be so, but also whoever thinks he is not is assumed not to be. As a result, despair becomes a rather rare phenomenon, instead of being quite common. What is rare is not that someone should be in despair; no, what is rare , the great rarity is that one should truly not be in despair”
What he is saying here is two things: people are in despair and that despair is not always a negative, that it can also be a merit, why? Because to kierkegaard, I quote: “it bespeaks the infinite erectness or loftiness of his being spirit” which means that despair itself can help indicate and acknowledge where you are with in relation to your true self and spirit, that despair causes for the realisation of what is needed to be done. But, due to the common view of despair which overlooks the very fact of not being in despair makes people unconscious of the despair itself which causes a twofold problem, that being unconscious of despair is another form of despair in itself a double despair if you will.
Kierkegaard see’s that many people reside under this form which he calls “inauthentic despair” which is made out of ignorance, therefore one inspires immediacy or finite reality into their lives as their groundwork to meaning and purpose, this is mostly due to the fact the individual cannot see that self is an ever changing ontological existence because the individual is unconscious of the despair that they are confronted with meaning that they cannot develop further into finding spirit, as I quote:
“Yes, one inspires immediacy with the greatest dread of all by subtly letting it believe that it knows what one is talking about. For although immediacy sureply doesn’t know, reflection never traps its prey more surely than when it makes its snare out of nothing”
So when we look at social media we can see that there is an emphasis on beauty and youthfulness but the emphasis is so empathic that it becomes a desire for that which the self wants to be, the self wants to be beauty, it wants to be youthfulness, as kierkegaard says:
“So even the most beautiful and lovely thing of all, a womanly youthfulness, is nevertheless despair, is happiness, the greatest good fortune”
So with this view it really doesn’t come as a surprise why people and women more specifically are sadly getting plastic surgery at young and old ages when they don’t even need when looking at the situation from their point of view, social media perpetuates finite temporal existences, this is a prime example of when one is residing (as kierkegaard calls it) in finitude’s despair, the reason for this despair is because they themselves lack infinitude.
Kierkegaard says that when someone is within finitude’s despair they have become a cipher, stripped oneself of primitiveness, emasculated oneself, he brings up the concept of ‘the others’ whereby one’s own self is cheated by ‘the others’ which is very similar to sartre’s view of bad faith, he goes on to say that finitude’s despair is due to a busied life of worldly affairs by which they lose themselves find it too risky, easier and safer to simply just go along with the crowd and nothing more, I quote:
“He is ground as smooth as a pebble, as exchangeable as a coin from the realm. Far from anyone thinking him to be in despair, he is just what a human being ought to be. Naturally the world has no understanding of what is truly horrifying. The despair that not only does not cause any inconvenience in life, but makes life convenient and comfortable is naturally enough in no way regarded as despair.”
So, finitude’s despair relates to a lot of things, he says that no matter how selfish one may be there is no self in a spiritual sense when some is stuck in this form of despair.
The next is infinitude’s despair, as opposed to finitude this is the complete opposite, this when someone lacks finitude when the confining factor is non existent and all that remains is the expanding factor.
This is primarily linked to imagination, kierkegaard see’s that imagination is related to feeling, understanding and will but imagination itself can become overpowering and can influence feeling, understanding and will too much to the point where it produces fantasy or what he calls: the fantastic, therefore imagination in kierkegaard’s view is the, I quote: “infinitizing reflection” which is boundless.
The fantastic then can generally speaking carry a person into the infinite in such a way that it leads the individual away from themselves and prevents themselves from coming back to themselves.
Kierkegaard furthers this concept of fantasy on a deeper psychological level by describing the effects its has on emotion, understandin and the will which then manifests into the reality of a living individual, in relation to emotion, he says, i quote:
“When emotion becomes fantastic in this way, the self is simply more and more volatilized and eventually becomes a kind of abstract sensitivity which inhumanly belongs to no human… emotions have become fantastic… In a way he becomes infinitized… for he loses himself more and more”
In relation to understanding he says I quote:
“The more understanding increases the more it becomes a kind of inhuman knowledge in the production in which man’s self is squandered”
And finally in relation to the will he says, i quote:
“Increasingly volatilized, the will then does not become as consistently concrete as it becomes abstract, so that the more it is infinitized in its purpose and decision”
When: will, understanding, feeling or emotion become fantastic the whole self ultimately leaps headlong into the fantastic in either an active or passive form, the self then leads a fantastic existence in either abstract infinity or abstract isolation whereby the individual is drifting further and further away from its true self.
In relation to social media the first thing I thought of was in how people fantasies over celebrity appeal, whereby an attempt to replicate such popularity becomes infinite in the sense that there is no end goal in the attempted attainment for popularity, that it keeps perpetuating itself, ultimately it is when in my view the self is sacrificed for the continuation of progression, followers, likes, shares, followers, likes, shares, this desire of progression continues constantly without understanding why they should be doing it in relation to the self, deep down the popularity is not going to fulfill your true self and its not going to find it either, this is why it is the despair of infinitude, of fantasy; because there is no grounding point to why you want to be popular in relation to your true self, popularity is infinity it will not stop and it will not fulfill you and if this type of belief is prioritized it is nothing more than a kierkegaardian form of despair because it is not going lead to your true self, there seems to be another illusion with social media and popularity whereby popularity becomes a strange modern equivalent of sanctity, if its not popular it’s not worthwhile, this then creates the concept of the other or the crowd as mentioned before.
We can also make a direct link between the despair of infinite with the despair of possibility, whereby their is a constant mentality of infinitude and possibility or a constant mentality towards finitude and necessity
Kierkegaard makes the key point that equilibrium needs to be founded within these dichotomies for one to not be in despair, in relation to possibility and necessity kierkegaard claims that possibility and both necessity need to be equally maintained within the self so that actuality emerges from them.
An example of being within the despair of possibility is being extremely wishful, running after possibility without coming back to necessity, for example a knight in a fairytale catches sight of beautiful rate bird and sets off in pursuit, in the beginning it seemed quite close but it then flies off further into the wilderness, he chases it, losses it, becomes lost in the wilderness and cannot find a way back to himself.
So yeah you can really relate a lot of social media’s negative trends and influences with these concepts of despair especially in relation to temporal things like beauty, makeup, physical attributes, conforming to expectations with kierkegaard’s despair of finitude but you can also see how the chase towards popularity, sacrificing the self for expedient desires that will never be truly fulfilling for the self as also being part of the despair of infinitude.
With that said I don’t think Kierkegaard would fundamentally hate social media what he does hate is how people in general tragically always come in contact with different forms of despair that distract them from attaining their true selves, that’s why his book sickness unto death is relevant to social media and always will be in relation to anything that humans develop, because behind everything we do we are always confronted with problems that set us back from becoming our true authentic selves.