I think, on the whole, Seneca would be negative. Social media is mostly a narcissistically driven enterprise interested in clicks, emotive baiting, uncritical thinking, partisan rancour, and censorious attitudes.
Yet, it has helped me access content and has provided fodder for my contemplation - provided that I take the time to contemplate and not plunge into the media-scape for more information. But alas, J'accuse!
But this problem lies with me, of course, and here the Stoics help as well. Still, Seneca's caution about using words in his letters is as proper today as when he wrote it.
Seneca is responding to a friend who listened to a philosopher, Serapio. We don't have Seneca's friend's letter but based on Seneca's response, we can glean what his friend thought of this philosopher's delivery. Seneca's response is a good one for anyone posting on social media, including me.
'His words,' you say, 'tend to be tumbled out a tremendous pace, pounded and driven along rather than poured out, for they come in a volume no one voice could cope with''. I do not approve of this in a philosopher, whose delivery - like his life - should be well-ordered; nothing can be well regulated if it is done in a breakneck hurry...You should take the view, then, that this copious. and impetuous energy in a speaker is better suited to a hawker than to someone who deals with a matter of great importance and is also a teacher.
We, who use the media and produce content no matter how small (such as this blog) or large (such as networks and popular content creators) should take Seneca's letter to heart.
Seneca argues that we should avoid polemics or inflammatory prose in our language. Instead, "language, moreover, which devotes its attention to truth ought to be plain and unadorned. This (the political and popular media rhetoric of his day and ours) has nothing to do with truth. Its object is to sway a mass audience, to carry away unpractised ears by the force of its onslaught. It never submits itself to detailed discussion, is just wafted away. Besides, how can a thing possibly govern others when it cannot be governed itself.
I think we need vigorous, sustained debate on many of the economic, social, and cultural policies affecting our world, particularly post-pandemic.
The Stoics argue that fear should not govern our life, and this emotion should not drive what we know to be the social good. Yes, we need to protect the vulnerable but the cure cannot be worse than the disease. This advice applies to pandemic responses and responses to so-called dangerous ideas on the internet. Free expression and free flow of ideas are essential for humanity. It is part of the divine logos that inheres in each of us who are part of the cosmological whole.
So free expression - YES. At the same time, take heed, though, people communicating on the internet or cable t.v. should embody Seneca's advice on their use of language!
A way of speaking that is restrained, not bold, suits the wise person.