Applying Stoicism to Online Debates
I run several online groups, including the largest Facebook group for Stoic philosophy — it currently has over 78k members. I’ve been running large online discussion forums since way back in 1999, when I created my first Yahoogroup. Since then I’ve written several books on applying Stoic philosophy to modern life. The most recent was called How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. A good Stoic would follow Epictetus’ famous slogan when on social media: endure and renounce. So when it comes to getting sucked into arguments online or wasting too much time on Twitter and Facebook — I should probably know better by now.
I am convinced that Stoicism is especially relevant to the challenges of coping with social media.
I guess I do have the excuse that social media has been an important part of my job for as long as I care to remember now. So maybe I can’t avoid it completely. I’ve been thinking for a long time now, though, that I should be applying the teachings of Stoicism more consistently to my own online behaviour and the way I deal with trolls, etc. I get plenty of practice. If you write books trolls will eventually come after you online. Also, if you run forums often you’ll have to ban people for becoming abusive, usually following complaints from other group members. Most of the time they’ll be angry and you’ll get quite a few abusive messages from them, etc. In this article, I’m going to explain why I think this is really just a modern version of an age-old problem and how some specific techniques from ancient Greek philosophy can help us.