Surfing the Public Square: On Worldlessness, Social Media, and the Dissolution of the Polis

Sue Spaid 1
  • 1 , Maransart, Belgium

Abstract

This paper employs Hannah Arendt’s characterization of the social, which lacks location and mandates conformity, to evaluate social media’s: a) challenge to the polis, b) relationship to the social, b) influence on private space, d) impact on public space, and e) virus-like capacity to capture, mimic, and replicate the agonistic polis, where “everything [is] decided through words and persuasion and not through force and violence.” Using Arendt’s exact language, this paper begins by discussing how she differentiated the political, private, social, and public realms. After explaining how online activities resemble (or not) her notion of the social, I demonstrate how the rise of the social, which she characterized as dominated by behavior (not action), ruled by nobody and occurring nowhere, continues to eclipse both private and public space at an alarming pace. Finally, I discuss the ramifications of social media’s setting the stage for worldlessness to spin out of control, as the public square becomes an intangible web. Unlike an Arendtian web of worldly human relationships that fosters individuality and enables excellence to be publicly tested, social media feeds a craving for kinship and connection, however remotely. Leaving such needs unfulfilled, social media risks to trump bios politicos.

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