A three-part series on Foucault and Social media, by Tim Raynor, ends with this conclusion:
Foucault would recommend an artistic approach to managing the contradictions in our online and offline lives. We should imagine ourselves as works of art in progress. Works of art are not simple things; they pull together substances, practices, and social worlds. So do you. If you use social media creatively, you can use it to explore different aspects of your person, your potentials and singularities. If you feel fragmented, follow Walt Whitman’s lead:
‘Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes’ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)
Engaging with social media can let us be better works in progress, or embrace perpetual Beta. While the problems inherent with playing to an online crowd are much discussed in this essay, I have found that social media are more liberating and controlling. I find it interesting that many critiques of online engagement, whether it be for learning, working, or just finding others with similar interests, come from people who live in large urban centres. For me, the Internet has been liberating, as I am no longer limited to rural Atlantic Canada. My son has said that his online activities, gaming, socializing & blogging, made high school bearable. I remember life before the Web, and it was nowhere near as interesting as it is today.
Social media have helped me explore different aspects of my learning and my profession, much more than I could have on my own or in my community. I do not think that it is unnatural to feel more affinity for some of my online connections than for my local neighbours. Living with contradictions can help develop critical thinking. As social media enable more of us to live like artists, constantly redefining ourselves and our work, traditional hierarchical institutions will continue to feel threatened. I think we will see greater backlash against the “evils” of a network-mediated life, as power continues to move to the edges. But there is great good that can be done with two billion people connected to each other.
I intend on continuing to embrace contradictions, explore new ideas, and be a work of art in progress. Much of this I will do while connected via the Net. As more of us do so, we can strengthen our commons, work for a better society, and promote democracy. The past decade of living a very active online life has helped me contain more multitudes. I would highly recommend it.