Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)


Social Media

  • Q&A: Public Displays of Body Dysmorphia: 4 May 2014, Question 1
  • Question: What should I do when a friend exhibits severe body dysmorphia on social media? At several points in my life, I had a valued friend who seemed otherwise rational and grounded, but who also exhibited dangerous body dysmorphia on social media. In these cases, the friend would first go through a several-month phase of confessing to several psychological problems, such as fantasizing about suicide and of cutting herself with a blade. This friend would then sternly add that she has since recovered, but would admit to still feeling that her natural physical features are ugly and deformed. Then, months later, the friend would go into another phase. On social media, in front of many other people, she would make brazen gestures indicating body dysmorphia, such as uploading photoshopped pictures of herself as a corpse ready for burial or saying that she planned to starve herself to achieve her ideal of being skeletally thin. A major problem was the reaction from our online mutual acquaintances. Some admitted that they saw these problems, yet they acted like the friend was behaving normally. Others outright complimented the dysmorphic imagery and statements. In these cases, I think that my friend knew that her body dysmorphia was dangerous. She put it on display so that others would normalize her pathology, because then she could more easily rationalize her behavior as harmless. That seems really dangerous, but what is the proper alternative? How should people respond when a person puts his pathological self-destruction on display?

    Tags: Benevolence, Body Dysmorphia, Body Image, Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Health, Psychology, Relationships, Self-Esteem, Social Media

  • Q&A: Explaining Facebook Unfriendings: 27 Oct 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Does a person owe others an explanation for unfriending them on Facebook? I'm "friends" with many people on Facebook who I can't stand and with whom I would never willingly spend time in real life. I've purged many Facebook friends I didn't really know and/or who've contributed nothing of value to my life, all for the better. Now I am considering whether to unfriend former lovers and one-time real life friends from my youth for a host of insurmountable reasons – for example, our politics don't jive, I'm annoyed by seeing endless photos of their pets, and so on. Odds are I will never have any dealings with these people again, mostly because I don't want to. Do I owe them an explanation for the unfriending?

    Tags: Ethics, Friendship, Internet, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Online Privacy: 10 Mar 2013, Question 3
  • Question: What kinds of privacy can people reasonably expect online? Online privacy is an increasing concern in the media and the culture. The FTC is working on redefining what companies are and are not allowed to do with data they collect online. But given that the internet functions by sending your data through lots and lots of different systems, what rights and/or reasonable expectations should people have concerning their privacy online?

    Tags: Ethics, Internet, Privacy, Responsibility, Rights, Social Media

  • Q&A: Preventing Information Overload: 30 Sep 2012, Question 3
  • Question: How can I prevent information overload? What are some good ways to limit the amount of information I process in the age of the internet? Besides Philosophy in Action, I follow several other podcasts, blogs, and news feeds. What's the best way to prioritize and limit my inputs without feeling like I'm missing something important? How can I retain the information I process and not feel like I'm jumping from one feed to the next without remembering anything?

    Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Internet, Media, Psychology, Social Media, Time Management, Value Hierarchy

  • Q&A: Poking Fun at Friends' Ideas Online: 22 Apr 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is poking fun at people's ideas on social media rude, offensive, or otherwise wrong? For example, is it proper to make jokes about Jesus, Obama, or environmentalism on Facebook - knowing that some of your Facebook friends are Christians, Democrats, or environmentalists? Should those people be offended? Should a person limit himself to serious arguments?

    Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Internet, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Unfriendly Disputes in Online Communities: 25 Mar 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Why are disputes so belligerent in online communities? I've noticed that people get into very loud and heated disputes online, whereas that doesn't seem to happen in local communities. Disputes in local communities tend to be less frequent, less belligerent, and last for a shorter time - even when some people end up hating each other and refusing to have anything to do with each other in the end. Why is that? Also, why do people who are closest with each other (whether close friends, dating, or married) seem to agree more on hot-button issues? Are people more willing to reject a stranger's arguments than those of a friend? Is that an error?

    Tags: Communication, Conflict, Emotions, Etiquette, Friendship, Internet, Objectivity, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Terminating Online Versus In-Person Acquaintances: 26 Feb 2012, Question 2
  • Question: What's the proper threshold for cutting off a digital versus in-person acquaintance? Morally, when it is wrong to end your friendly interactions with an in-person acquaintance? And when is it wrong not to do so? Does the answer differ for a digital acquaintance – meaning, for example, someone that you know only via Facebook?

    Tags: Conflict, Friendship, Internet, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Hiring People with an Internet Presence: 8 May 2011, Question 2
  • Question: What do you think about the dangers of hiring someone with an internet presence? Some people in business have concerns about hiring people active on blogs, social media, and other online forums. Often that's because of controversial positions advocated by the potential employee that they don't want to reflect on the company or cause drama internally. Also, they might have concerns that the person would share information about the company (including co-workers) that ought to be be kept private. So what are the principles involved in hiring someone who posts controversial material online? For example, should their potential position in the company matter, such as whether they'll be working in the back office or with the public? Or, should companies simply ignore what people say and do on their off-time, including on the internet?

    Tags: Business, Ethics, Internet, Social Media

  • Q&A: Online Jerks: 16 Jan 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Why are some people such jerks on the internet? Some seemingly decent people become downright malicious bastards on the internet, particularly when posting anonymously. Why is that? What does such behavior say about a person's moral character? How can a person keep his manners, his benevolence, and his cool in full force when online?

    Tags: Character, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Internet, Judgment, Justice, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Facebook Friending Policy: 28 Nov 2010, Question 4
  • Question: What's a reasonable friending policy for Facebook? I've been getting more Facebook friend requests from people I don't know lately. Should I accept or refuse them?

    Tags: Communication, Internet, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Maintaining Civility Online: 31 Oct 2010, Question 6
  • Question: Could you give or recommend a set of guidelines for blog/online discussion etiquette? How can someone maximize their benefit from online discussions and relationships?

    Tags: Conflict, Ethics, Etiquette, Internet, Relationships, Social Media


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