Social Media and its Negative Impacts on Autonomy

Philosophy and Technology 35 (3):1-24 (2022)
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How social media impacts the autonomy of its users is a topic of increasing focus. However, much of the literature that explores these impacts fails to engage in depth with the philosophical literature on autonomy. This has resulted in a failure to consider the full range of impacts that social media might have on autonomy. A deeper consideration of these impacts is thus needed, given the importance of both autonomy as a moral concept and social media as a feature of contemporary life. By drawing on this philosophical literature, we argue that autonomy is broadly a matter of developing autonomy competencies, having authentic ends and control over key aspects of your own life, and not being manipulated, coerced, and controlled by others. We show how the autonomy of users of social media can be disrespected and harmed through the control that social media can have over its users’ data, attention, and behaviour. We conclude by discussing various recommendations to better regulate social media.

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Paul Formosa
Macquarie University