Philosophers’ Round Table: To Instagram or Not to Instagram?

Four existentialist philosophers gather around a campfire. The topic that brought them all together? Instagram.

07.26.16
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Søren Kierkegaard: As the eldest white dude here and the so-called “father of existentialism” — you flatter me —  I welcome you all to this meeting. Let’s go around and say ours name and a little about ourselves. I’ll start.

I’m Søren Kierkegaard. I was born rich and surrounded by death and I’ve written like a million books, some that argue completely opposing viewpoints. I’d tell you my pseudonyms but then I’d have to kill you.

Friedrich Nietzche: Whoa, intense. Heyyyyyyyyy guys. I’m Friedrich Nietzche. When I look at the stars I am reminded of nothingness and meaninglessness and I feel completely like myself. I’m fun at parties. J/k.

Martin Heidegger: What’s up, I’m Martin Heidegger. No, I’m not a DJ, just a lowly philosopher. I want to personally thank Kierkegaard, one of my biggest influences, for hosting this in a graveyard. I believe the most effective way to feel alive is to be around dead people. You know?

Albert Camus: So morbid, lol. Hey boys!!!!! I’m Albert Camus. Yes, the S is silent. I have three girlfriends whom I love but not as much as I love sport. Soccer, specifically. I think life is worth living, wine is delicious and enlightenment comes as easily as summertime.

Heidegger and Nietzche roll their eyes like, “Who is this frat boy?” Kirkegaard remains stoic.

Kirkegaard: Okay everyone. I brought you here because I’m conflicted AF about Instagram and I’d like opinions from my fellow existentialists. Before I divulge my thinking, what do you guys think? Does it have merit or is it trash? Is it good for humanity or horrible? Do you use it or no?

Nietzche: I’m actually pretty into IG. Sure, it makes a lot of us envious of other people’s lives but envy is NOT the enemy! Envy helps us understand what it is we truly want.

Heidegger: All due respect, Neetch, but Instagram is total trash. It inspires envy, sure, but the wrong kind: the false idea that perfection is within our grasp. We MUST move away from this inauthentic posturing. IG is just a distraction from truth.

Camus: But — Camus pauses to snap a photo of his coffee this steam is beautiful. What do we have if not beauty? Why not revel in it?

Heidegger: Fuck your steaming coffee, do you realize you’re in a graveyard? That you’re alive? Posting a photo of your drink is not true reverence for beauty. It’s just window dressing. You’re trying to prove something. You should delete Instagram before you become a slave to society.

Heidegger looks heated. Stands up and beings to pace amongst some nearby headstones. 

Kierkegaard: No reason to get upset, Heidegger. But I do see your point. Everyone is trying to convince everyone else that they, in some sense, have it all. And that’s a lie. Life is just a series of unavoidable regrets. But I think we ought to laugh at this absurdity. Because what else can we do? And this is where I’m conflicted, because maybe that means we shouldn’t overthink it? If we like it…why not have fun with it? Right and wrong don’t exist, after all.

Camus: I agree! Life is meaningless anyway. Why would we deny ourselves something that brings us comfort or makes us smile?

Nietzche, who was stroking his massive mustache and staring at a squirrel, perks up at the word “meaningless.”

Nietzche: I agree, Camus, but only in part. While I have utmost respect for art and music — in fact, those things should replace religion as the basis of culture — sometimes Instagram feels like a cesspool of frauds and try-hards. To whom is it bringing comfort? Those #prayforX hashtags make me nuts.

Kierkegaard: I like #prayforx hashtags. Prayer grounds us in the absurdity that is human existence! What do we have if not God? If we agree that the everyday is pointless — we must take a leap of faith and trust in something higher, no?

Nietzche nearly falls out of his chair.

Nietzche: DUUUUUUUDE. God is dead! And we killed him!

Kierkegaard puts on a fatherly expression, almost as if he pities Nietzche.

Kierkegaard: I understand the feeling.

Nietzche: Please don’t patronize me. Religion is giving you a false sense of comfort. Don’t give in, Kierkegaard. Face the abyss. If Instagram helps you see life for what it is, go for it. But if it numbs you, delete it.

Camus lights a cigarette dramatically. Throws a James Dean-esque expression in Nietzche’s direction.

Camus: I agree, Neetch. To be an existentialist and to believe in God is a contradiction. The everyday is everything. We must triumph over the hopelessness of our imminent death and enjoy the spoils before us! Sure, we may not find meaning in them — but that’s because there is no meaning to be found. Life is ordinary! Enjoy it! Post and like and comment to your heart’s content!

Heidegger stops pacing over graves and sits down and stares at Camus, as if begging him to understand what he’s about to say.

Heidegger: But the spoils of society are so….provincial, Camus. Don’t you see? You’re blinded by the trappings of social hierarchy. You’re dodging true meaning. Only once you escape seeing yourself through others, through likes and through followers, do you truly learn to live for yourself. Then, you’ll want for nothing, no matter your status. Then you can leave the rat race.

Kierkegaard: You make an interesting point, Heidegger. But is it actually possible to truly and only live for ourselves in the present? Enlightenment is so subjective and nebulous. We can scarcely recognize it when it stares us in the face.

Nietzche: Exactly, the idea of finding comfort in the present is absurd. Why should we feel comfortable? Life is fraught with challenge. That’s the point. We ought not to numb ourselves with false comforts and ideas.

Camus: You guys are so depressing. It’s unnecessary. Here.

Camus pulls a bottle of wine and glasses seemingly out of nowhere and begins to pass them out.

Nietzche: You know I don’t drink, Camus. Alcohol is just as bad as religion.

Kierkegaard: Oh, Nietzche, you act as if you invented angst when in fact I did. Literally. But why suffer so much when life can only be understood backwards anyway? Shouldn’t we just live it forward and trust in something greater?

Camus: Second that, Kierkegaard! Except the only thing greater than the everyday is the collective everyday — the cyclical nature of joy and suffering. That’s all there is and it has to be enough. You should read the Myth of Sisyphus. Lose a follower, gain a follower, just keep posting.

Kierkegaard rolls his eyes begins to scroll through Instagram and pauses on a video of a cat pushing a glass of water off a table. Nietzche watches over his shoulder, chuckles in spite of himself, then immediately looks away and strokes his mustache in a show of false contemplation. Heidegger chugs his glass of wine and begins to pace huffily amongst the graves again. Camus retreats into a bush, takes a selfie and captions it “I love nature omg.”

Collage by Lily Ross and Emily Zirimis.

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