When Protagoras said that man is the measure, the intent was that each individual thought and idea would be flipped over, contemplated, and expanded on by other men. That concepts would be challenged and formulated. Today, rather than listening to and expanding on ideas, we base the worth of an opinion on the number of likes or retweets that it has. While the number of people that support an idea is important, it should not be the defining factor. Processing information and deciding for yourself whether or not you want to stand behind an idea has become less important as people search for instant gratification from an audience that, frankly, doesn’t matter.
To make light of a deep concept, every time I post a picture on my Instagram account, I get this nagging fear that I won’t hit a certain number of likes, and the thought process of these events goes something like this:
“Oh god, it’s been 45 seconds and no one’s liked my Instagram picture. Why did I even post that in the-OH LOOK someone liked it!…wait, it’s just my brother that doesn’t even count. What’s wrong with it?? Do I look bad? I guess the lighting is kind of bad..That’s it, I’m deleting it”.
In this situation and countless variations I took something that I thought was beautiful, showed it to the world, and withdrew it because the “rest of the world” didn't seem to think so. This skewed mentality takes a lack of response as a good enough reason to change my opinion. When it boils down to it, social media can be seen as the chopping block for ideas and whether or not they make the cut.
Protagoras would argue that experience and opinion are subjective. In a classic discussion, Protagoras states the claim that a woman in Hawaii may find a room of 72 degrees to be quite cold, whereas a man from Alaska might think the same room is toasty. Trying to convince either of the opposite would be futile. The room can never be objectively labeled as cold or hot because each person’s experience is subjective-something that has been far forgotten today. For example, Joe goes to the beach and raves about his experience online. Each person that takes that opinion for it’s surface value is processing his opinion in a less subjective and more detached light. Every time that post is liked or spread, his opinion becomes “truer”. And therefore, opinions are being formed instantaneously without first hand knowledge.
And so, I’d like to leave us all with a small challenge: don’t believe Carol when she tells you that the room is cold, go find out for yourself.