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Social Media, Egotism, and COVID-19

Linguist and Stoic Brittany Polat wrote a very reflective blog post where she discussed a connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and egotism. If you think about the lockdowns and isolation experienced as a result of the pandemic, it makes sense that the conditions have influenced unhealthy social media behaviors. Polat reminds us that "The Stoics, who were unabashedly inspired by Socrates, inherited this Socratic mission of trying to get beyond mere opinion to see the world clearly and objectively. But the project of seeking truth outside ourselves requires us to admit that we are, just maybe, not as smart and special as we once thought." Of course, this task is easier said than done, especially with the bombardment of false and (let's just say it) bad communication. However, the task of trying to see the world clearly and objectively remains.

One of the most effective ways to see ourselves as "not as smart and special as we once thought" is through the Stoic practice of the view from above meditation. In the practice of the view from above, the practitioner comes to three distinct conclusions:

  1. Insignificance of our circumstances in the largeness of the universe

  2. Significance of our lives in the relation to the rarity of our experience

  3. Interconnectedness of the how different things/events influence each other

It may be tempting to point out that 1 and 2 seem contradictory. In addition, it also might make sense to claim that 2 may actually cause us to experience more narcissism instead of lessening it. In response to the first concern, the insignificance is a label applied to things that are truly common. For instance, getting wet from the rain is a truly insignificant experience. Just think of how many planets in the universe that have similar atmospheres that produce similar meteorological events. As far as the second concern, the significance we feel from our own neurological experience is something that is, arguably, one-of-a-kind. However, there is a big difference from peacefully observing our profound experience than bragging to the world about our insecure sense of greatness.

So what is the solution for this sense of egotism? As Brittany Polat implies, it would definitely help for us to take up the Socratic mission to look within ourselves and weed out all of our harmful and inaccurate judgments. This is a life-long process that can be helped with a healthy dose of the Stoic view from above meditation. For a great guided recording (with an amazing Scottish accent), check out Donald Robertson's view from above meditation.

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