The level of thought demonstrated in many of the papers written for the New Hampshire Technical Institute’s Contemporary Ethical Issues class co-taught by myself and Stephen Ambra was quite refreshing to see.
One assignment was to compare and contrast 1950’s news media (i.e. Good Night and Good Luck) with that of today’s social media as observed in the feature film The Social Network. Should social media, like Facebook, adhere to ethical standards?
Two papers, in particular, were interesting from the standpoint that they were not only thoughtfully written, but came from a brother and sister attending the class.
“Facebook is taking over the world,” he writes.
“The world as it was in the time of Good Night and Good Luck is incredibly different than the world presented in The Social Network,” she writes. “The modern world is obscene with the outright portrayals of partying, drug use, and sex. At least people in the 1950s attempted to downplay those aspects. I have no doubt that those things were going on… during the 50s, but… at least people tried to hold onto some semblance of class.”
“Respect is a major part of the user’s responsibility,” he says about social media. “What you say, mean, and do can truly affect people in a huge way… The responsibility of Facebook is to provide a clean, safe, and user-friendly platform that will connect people… It has the duty of receiving, monitoring, and removing posts that are flagged for being inappropriate.”
“One of the standards most lacking in social networks these days is that of respect,” she says. “Some users… seem to have no respect for themselves or others… Young children use social media, often unwittingly exposing themselves to things that no child should ever be exposed to.”
“Cyber-bullying,” he points out, “…affects millions… social media sites are a prime location for bullies to cause fear and harm… The users have an ethical responsibility to watch out for each other for this kind of behavior. Users also have a responsibility to report any behavior, comments or posts that they think could be bullying to the provider and if needed, the police.”
“There are no laws stating that social networks have to abide by certain ethical standards,” she writes, “however, the laws are the very baseline of what is morally right. In other words, the law is the absolute minimum amount of good conduct required for society…”
“Self-restraint,” he writes, “is a major problem on social media sites. People can easily get addicted and spend hours upon hours on these sites, checking messages, trying to find new friends, basically doing everything you have to do physically to make friends in the real world. You don‘t even need to call and actually talk to anyone anymore because you can see most of their life right on their page!
“Overall,” he concludes, “It is up to the user to use [social media] ethically… Facebook is a wonderful tool and can greatly improve your life and social circle, but use it with caution. Everything you say is there for the world to take in…”
“…social networks,” she concludes, “should absolutely adhere to ethical standards, both within each individual company and its respective account holders. Someone has to set a good example for people to follow. In his 1958 speech, Edward Murrow said, ‘We are, to a large extent, an imitative society.’ If social networks were to set a higher standard, who knows, the general populace might actually follow suit!”
Self-restraint, respect, responsibility – all that and more define our character and ultimately determine the purpose and course of our lives whether we’re interacting in a cyber world or the real world.