Going Through A Ph(r)ase

The Facebook Moral Code
Friday 17 June 2011, 1:37 pm
Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , ,

We all use Facebook and yet most of us loath it. It has become the ultimate in procrastination, distraction and self-absorption. For some, it represents everything that is wrong with our society – encouraging you to connect with “friends” by following their lives without any need to actually interact. We can all lead our individual lives and construct our own representations of our reality, for everyone to see.

In short, through its faux friendships, Facebook encourages us to “share” our experiences without any actual interaction. And by appealing to our insatiable need to know everything that is going on, and luring us into its world of status updates, it actually prevents real social interaction. Finding out about other people’s lives via Facebook has replaced conversation. After all, when people describe their days down to the food that they ate for tea, what is there left to talk about?

As if this weren’t enough, Facebook also has the power to affect the mood. People can write what they like in their status updates – their status is their chance to express themselves. But, in my experience, these status updates are increasingly being used to seek sympathy, to gain attention and to express negativity. In the age of the smart phone, many of us begin our days by checking our Facebook news feeds. When these are full of comments about what a terrible day yesterday was, about how stressed people are and blatant attempts to get attention and sympathy, it tends to put a dampener on your day.

This is one of my many issues with Facebook, and it is one of the few that we can address – to help make Facebook a force for good. In order to achieve this, I believe that we need a kind of Moral Code for Facebook.

Now at this point, you may question what morality has to do with Facebook. But I believe that the moral philosophy espoused by Immanuel Kant can shed light on this issue and can help us to make Facebook a positive force, rather than a vehicle for social insularity and negativity.

Immanuel Kant was a moral philosopher, and one of his main theses is that of the categorical imperative. Kant believed that it is possible to use the power of reason alone to determine whether an action is moral or not. Put simply, when considering whether an action is right, we need only to imagine what the consequence would be if everyone did that action: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Thus, in short, murder is wrong, because if it were a universal law, we would all die; theft is wrong, because if it were adopted on a mass scale, it would lead to the breakdown of society. This way of thinking is comparable to the so-called Golden Rule: treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated.

One of Facebook’s main problems is that it encourages its users to think from a very egocentric point of view. The emphasis is always on the user – they get to write what they like, without fear of it being taken the wrong way. After all, comments from others can always be deleted; “friends” can always be blocked.

The central point of the Facebook Moral Code, then, is that it should not be about you, the individual. Facebook presents us with a fantastic tool for influencing the mood of others. We can use Facebook to brighten each other’s days, to make each other smile and to spread positivity.

Here let me note that it would obviously be preferable for us to do this by socialising in the physical world, rather than the virtual, but as Facebook has become such as integral part of our lives, establishing its place in our daily routines, that may be a bridge too far at present. Instead, I am calling for a new way of using Facebook – one that will bring some good rather than spreading feelings of misery and stress and the general impression that everything is terrible.

My theory is thus: Just as someone writing how depressed they are feeling can make everyone reading it feel glum themselves – either as a result of realising that they are in the same boat, or as a feeling of guilt for not doing anything to help or, worse, not being bothered – so writing something positive can make the people reading it feel better about themselves.

And so, my plea to you, dear Facebook users, is as follows: No longer see Facebook as a place to list your deficiencies, to complain about your hideous jobs, to list your multitude of woes. When updating your status, think before you press enter: What effect will this have on others? Will my writing this bring any benefit to my “friends”? Will it make them feel better or worse? And, if you find yourself answering the latter, delete it. If you need to express it somewhere, buy a diary. Write only what you feel will have a positive effect on others. Be a good “friend” in the true sense of the word.

Let us use Facebook to make life brighter, to uplift our friends and acquaintances, rather than to drag them down. If Kant were alive today, I like to think that he might have included a Moral Code for Facebook in his dull and overcomplicated, yet ultimately enlightening, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. And I believe it would have read as follows: “Write only that which you would wish to read yourself.”

So, next time you are on Facebook, try following the Facebook Moral Code. Facebook is a powerful tool. Instead of using it to satisfy our own egos and seek the sympathy of others, let us use it for the benefit of our “friends”, and do our bit to add just a little bit of sunshine to their lives.

Thursday 16 July 2009, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

You wait for one exciting announcement and TWO come along at once!

Mine and Ragil’s fair trade company is now fully launched and, if you haven’t visited it already, is awaiting your presence. By Hand is online and open for business. We are initially selling jewellery but are soon going to be adding fair trade gift wrap and fair trade bags to our collection. All the products are from Bali and they are all beautiful so take a look and buy buy buy, oh, and then tell your friends to do the same!

By Hand, from Bali with love

By Hand, from Bali with love

And, as if the launch of one fair trade company is not enough, I have also just launched Fair’s Fair – a blog covering all things fair trade. If any of you have any ideas for articles or want to write an article for the blog yourself then please let me know and we can arrange something. I would like it to be full of guest articles and interesting discussions and I am sure that you all have lots to contribute!

The Power of Primark
Sunday 5 July 2009, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Sitting in a streetside cafe in the sunshine yesterday I found myself becoming most alarmed at the number of people walking around with Primark bags. For those of you not already aware of what Primark is, it is almost without doubt the cheapest place to buy clothes and accessories on the highstreet. In my mind it is a true ambassador of our throwaway society: The prices are ridiculously low, encouraging shoppers to buy multiple items that they don’t necessarily need, and the quality is extremely poor, meaning that people wear, throw away and buy again.

The recent scandal involving Primark – which showed that the company employs illegal workers in a factory in Manchester, paying them less than the minimum wage and making them work 12-hour shifts – should have hit the company hard in terms of sales, but the recession seems to have rescued Primark. The company is the cheapest highstreet fashion store and for too many people in the UK, this appears to be reason enough to shop there.

Unfortunately it is not just a case of people not reflecting on how the prices are so cheap (there must be some exploitation along the supply line); most people know full well that Primark has been proved to be exploiting workers, not in developing countries on the other side of the world, but in Manchester. Sadly it seems people care only about saving a few of their own pounds.

Below you can see some photographic evidence of the power of Primark: Ragil was armed with a camera and photographed everyone that walked past us carrying a Primark bag in the space of 15 minutes.

Lucie va a Paris
Monday 18 May 2009, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Travel

Visiting Paris for the first time later this week. I intend to spend my time moseying around; sitting in streetside cafes watching the world go by, and admiring some of the many sights.

Any hints and tips on places to go, things to see, cafes to visit?!

Monday 11 May 2009, 3:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ha, how apt the blog title turned out to be. My WordPress blog-writing phase was somewhat short lived but maybe now is a good time to start the resurrection…

Everything is different now. 

Berlin is no longer my home town; the German neighbours have been replaced by Brits, and predictable weather has been replaced by the joy of not knowing what is going to happen next – wind, rain, sleet, hail, sun – the only certainty is you will most probably regret not bringing an umbrella.

I have fitted back into life in GB a treat and truly love being so close to the family. Leeds is our home town of choice and offers the compact centre that Berlin lacked, as well as sufficient nice-looking buildings, and some ace arcades providing a handy roof for when the showers come.

I have adapted to the freelance life with ease and am more than happy to be able to get up when I want and to do as little or as much work as I please. Happily discipline and organisation are two of my strong points, and my desire to acquire some kind of financial security is motivation enough to work pretty hard most of the time.

Besides the day job, there is a new project underway that has great potential. I have always wanted to have my own business and as it is a dream shared by Ragil, it seems like the best next step.

The launch is planned for early June. I will keep you all informed🙂

Pre-match Nerves
Thursday 8 January 2009, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Carbs are loaded

Shin pads are on

5-a-side footie, here I come!!!

Coping with Uncertainty
Thursday 16 October 2008, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Philosophy, Travel

You learn a lot from new situations and experiences and trying to sell our furniture has given me much food for thought. I have had to face up to the fact that people are completely unreliable and, in cases where you have no face-to-face contact, don’t seem to pay too much thought to the effect that their unreliability has on others. More worryingly perhaps, I have learnt that I am not all that great at dealing with uncertainty and things that are out of my control. Not knowing who is going to buy our furniture and when they are going to pick it up, or, perhaps more accurately, if they are going to pick it up, has left me in a bit of an anxious, stress-head state. It is a state that I am very much looking forward to putting behind me… At least until we arrive in Britain and have to start looking for flats, applying for residency, etc. etc.
Whoever said “life is a rollercoaster” was a wise old Irish man😉