Excellent online friendships: an Aristotelian defense of social media
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I defend social media’s potential to support Aristotelian virtue friendship against a variety of objections. I begin with Aristotle’s claim that the foundation of the best friendships is a shared life. Friends share the distinctively human and valuable components of their lives, especially reasoning together by sharing conversation and thoughts, and communal engagement in valued activities. Although some have charged that shared living is not possible between friends who interact through digital social media, I argue that social media preserves the relevantly human and valuable portions of life, especially reasoning, play, and exchange of ideas. I then consider several criticisms of social media’s potential to host friendships, and refute or weaken the force of these objections, using this conception of a distinctively human shared life. I conclude that we should use the shared life to evaluate features of social media and norms for users’ conduct.
KeywordsFriendship Social media Aristotle Privacy Shared activity
Thanks to Randall J. Landau, Richard Volkman, Todd Mason, Katherine Fazekas, and Paul Bloomfield, for many fruitful conversations, both on- and offline, which gave rise to this paper, to two anonymous referees for ETHICOMP, and to the participants at ETHICOMP 2014, whose comments and questions proved enormously helpful. I also thank the SCSU students in my Spring 2014 course Ethics: Know Thyself, for their insightful observations and feedback on an early draft of the project, and Justin Grey for proofreading. Any remaining errors are, of course, mine alone.
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