Social media fosters egotism rather than individualism

What is the relationship between social media and individualism? It is often claimed that these platforms engender a preoccupation with the self, easily cast in terms of individualism. But it is a preoccupation which is just as often claimed to be profoundly social, in so far as that it involves a concern with how many facets of the self are perceived by others, as mediated through social media platforms. It occurs to me that de Tocqueville’s distinction between individualism and egotism could be useful in helping clarify this issue. Though egotism and individualism are commonly assumed to go together, such that individualism as a cultural force will foster egotism in individuals, de Tocqueville saw the distinction rather differently:

Our [European] fathers were only acquainted with egotism. Egotism is a passionate and exaggerated love of self, which leads a man to connect everything with his own person, and prefer himself to everything in the world. Individualism is a mature and calm feeling, which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from [others] so that, after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself. Egotism originates in blind instinct: individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment … Egotism blights the germ of all virtue; individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright egotism.

One thought on “Social media fosters egotism rather than individualism

  1. Social media does foster individualism for some people; the ones who refuse to engage with it. It bacame the line in the sand for me around 2010 regarding my interpersonal relationships. I stopped interacting IRL with anyone who had a Facebook or twatter account. (No particular event triggered it, I just found them so fundamentally offensive that I realized I could no longer engage with anybody who approved of or participated in social media culture.) Yes, it left me completely alone in the end. My life since has been one long, solitary study of all the ways in which I am fundamentally diffrerent from other people. Most people would probably find this “sad” or “lonely”, but I am autistic, & lucky enough to be able to support myself without a job that requires any social interaction, so I’m loving every minute of just being my weird self, by myself. I’m pretty fun to be around, if I do say so myself. I use the internet as a substitute for human interaction, but only anonymously & fleetingly. I browse social media sometimes, but I find I’m pretty amused just sitting back & observing all the rest of you from afar. It’s like binging Game of Thrones; I’m watching a gruesome little tragedy unfold, but I can stay detached & amused because it’s not my tragedy & I can’t interact with it.
    I’m as happy as a seagull with a french fry. Squawk. 🐔

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