This is the first post to share a video from my new YouTube channel, New Intrigue (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC483SVF4wVp98cZbSz5BmkQ).
Like this blog, the New Intrigue channel seeks to discuss philosophy, history, politics and law, revealing all things new and intriguing.
In this week’s episode, I look at the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato and his thought experiment, Plato’s cave.
In summary, Plato’s cave was a hypothetical scenario. Imagine being tied up in a cave your entire life with two others next to you, and only a handful of torches behind you, casting shadows on the wall. All you know is the shadows on the wall, and that’s all you’ve seen of the world. One day, you are let out of the cave and you experience everything life has to offer – sunshine and nature – and you are shocked by how much more is out there. Returning to the cave, you cannot understand how you previously saw the world and the limited worldview you had.
In the above video, I discuss how Plato’s cave applies to modern day social media and the formation of “echo chambers”: places online where we only talk to people we already agree with. Much like the now famous idea that people get news from news sites they agree with, social media uses algorithms to show us content we are more likely to “like” or “share”. The content we are more likely to “like or share” is in turn, content that we tend to already agree with. Over time, social media algorithms create news feeds that do not challenge us and in fact frequently reinforce any narrow-minded views we have of the world.
In this way, social media is very similar to Plato’s cave. In the same sense, escaping your ‘in-group’ on social media can help you escape the cave. By trying to intentionally discover other people’s points of view, or challenging opinions, you can break out of the cave and truly understand the world (the sunshine and contrasting shadows) outside of the little bubble of people who already agree with you. Meeting disagreement with compassion and understanding is sorely lacking in the world today, and it is sad to see technology reinforce barriers of division and hatred, rather than compassion and love.