Social Media – Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Plato is a well-known ancient Greek philosopher, who wrote The Allegory of the Cave argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible and the visible world is the least knowable, and the most obscure. His allegory applies to today’s society with full of temptation floating around, waiting for its target to insert their hands into the shackles and then repeat this specific action for weeks, months, or even years. Social media is one of them, even though it looks harmless, it is easy to get addicted to after a long period of usage; it is the invisible world in Plato’s allegory.

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It imprisons and manipulates people to live in the darkness of the cave enjoying shadows dancing on the wall instead of facing the undesired world.

In Plato’s story, the prisoners got chained up in the cave since they were born, forced to watch the shadows cast on the wall by animals, people passing by. One day, a prisoner got set free from the chains decide to go out of the cave to perceive the true nature of reality. He chose to come back to tell other prisoners about the reality, but none believe in what he said and thought he is delusional. From the allegory, Plato implies the cave as the artificial world that injects ideas, or shadows, into the prisoners’ mind and turns it to become a reality. Moreover, Alex Gendler once said in his TED-Ed’s video, Like the shadows on the wall, things in the physical world are flawed reflection of ideal forms, such as roundness or beauty. In this way, the cave leads to many fundamental questions, including the origin of knowledge, the problem of representation, and the nature of reality itself. (Gendler) The cave represents a barrier that is keeping its prisoners back in the darkness, away from evolving or just simply away from becoming a normal human being. Social networking is no different, the addiction to connect to online media could change a person’s perspective of perceiving life that alters his daily activities and traps him like a prisoner in his own cave.
Why does social media become an addiction? According to Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, discusses working on social networking as A little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a postand that is going to get you to contribute more. (McCarthy-Jones) Dopamine is a substance released by the brain as the feel-good chemical that triggered as a reward to encourage its user to use it again and again. In Plato’s piece, prisoners shackle in the cave and were forced to watch shadows implies the addiction to social posts. Moreover, McCarthy-Jones asserts “Social networking sites grab us because they involve self-relevant information and bear on our social status and reputation.” (McCarthy-Jones) Notably to Plato’s allegory, the posts on social media represent shadows that cast the invisible world from people, who are passing by the campfire, onto the wall; the way prisoners learn about the shadows are similar to how we, as the user, perceive and interact with posts online. Thus, the shadows give its prisoners a reward of dopamine they wanted, from it imprison them, keep them away from the actual reality.

With the excessive use of social networking, online media creates countless of impacts on its users without them noticing it. For example, teens spent time, instead of doing something productive, to go online to keep themselves busy and keep distant from any verbal conversation. Moreover, Sherri Gordon writes in her article, “According to the study, people who used more than seven social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression than people who used two or fewer sites.” (Gordon) Because of wasting their time on social media, the addicts do not enjoy life as much due to the imperfection of reality compare the online world, where most people captured their best moment and share it to the community. Another impact, with emotionally attached to social networking, is anxiety; it could drive its users to stress by keeping up with the online world. However, the most significant impact is that it diminishes the ability to communicate, socializing with one another, and limits their writing capability. According to Chetan R. Bhamare, a professor at RJSPM-ACS College, “The rapid-fire quick communication style that captivates the millennials and other generation have shifted our conversations from ?face-to-face’ instances to ?through “the-screen’ ones.” (Bhamare) In addition, online communicating has stopped the way they suppose to interact with one another; due to the absence of facial expression and voice tones, addicts often do not get any influential messages out of their conversation. Moreover, emotions are highly contagious by using facial expression; a simple smile from a person could brighten the other person’s day, or it could go another way around with the result of ruining someone’s life. Therefore social media addicts have limited social skills since they prefer to spend more time on on-screen chitchatting than at a face-to-face conversation, which results in the lack of expressing emotion disallows them from connecting to other people. In short, this effect also appears in Plato’s allegory showing how living in the darkness and watching shadows impacts the people, who got chained up in a cave when they couldn’t believe the other prisoner’s perspective from his journey to the physical world.

Until now, the majority of people who are using social media for quite a long period of time has recognized its consequences, but still, consciously keep up with their addiction. Then one day, they realize that their addiction is portrayed as Plato’s prisoners in his allegory, who could not accept the harsh truth from the outside world; the prisoner, when he is free, has to adapt to the new environment like an infant who is trying to explore the world, so he can appreciate living his life. Social media is holding and controlling people all over the world, trapping them and wasting their time; since they are more knowledgeable and have diverse perceptions, why don’t they escape?

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