I have wanted to write this article for several years. Please respond or discuss how you feel.
I remember a time when teaching moral values, practicing basic human principals, and acting on decisions based on individual understanding of right from wrong was the norm in our society. Parents and teachers taught children to practice honesty, loyalty, responsibility, accepting consequences for personal actions, kindness to others, and respect for all - including self. These principals, some would say, are innate to human-nature - meaning that most people do know right from wrong, have a conscious, feel regret, and behave according to moral values. In fact, our society was built on this belief. People do not have the right to harm, kill, or take away others' freedom without some sort of consequence. We would assume that these sort of moral principals would also be witnessed in social media settings on the internet.
Presumably, there was a time when people did treat each other with respect on the internet - a couple of decades ago. The average person was unaware that there were no consequences for behaving immorally on the internet. Anyone could say anything they pleased about anyone. There were no 'laws' to stop someone from totally slandering another person. News reports could be totally false without a shred of evidence. Scientific studies could be published that never happened. Bullying was fine and even acceptable. There was nothing stopping anyone from doing pretty much whatever they pleased while posting in social media platforms. Freedom of speech was encouraged beyond what society could ever have imagined.
I have been on the World Wide Web since it began. I have witnessed millions of folks slowly realize that anything does go. One lie here and another there - accepted, tolerated, believed, and even enjoyed by an unaware populace as the moral stature of our society has seemingly dwindled into oblivion.
Social media has given a venue to two separate but also related phenomena:
1) Anonymity: the ability for anyone to sit at home posting while using any name they please.
2) Power: the ability to manipulate, influence, and control masses of people through the written word.
Within this structure, individuals practicing morality and principals become victims of those who have spent decades learning the art of 'winning' by attacking within a public venue that is left shocked, but also excited by the drama and chaos that ensues.
Clearly, we all watched as this happened on Twitter during the last election. The attacks were ruthless, obvious lies, and purposefully written for shock value. There was a time when this type of 'trolling' was considered cowardly, beneath most people's ability to accept. Now, it is not only tolerated, but encouraged.
What is happening in our society? Are we teaching our children that only the weak practice moral values and principals? It is nearly impossible to raise above the troll who is ruthlessly attacking your credibility by responding in any other way, but to be on the defensive which evolves into a grade-school argument - calling each other liars, for instance. In a society where we all do want to know the truth, we no longer can measure truth by what we hear. We are forced to take sides - who is telling the truth? Who should we believe? And, we tend to believe the stronger force rather than the moral character of a person buried beneath the chaos and lies.
Our children are learning that people are either strong bullies or weak victims who follow or hide from the attackers. And, the idea of consequences or regret for who is hurt along the way of gaining the win is not even considered. After all, freedom of speech has become the notion that anyone can say anything about anyone without even knowing who out there in the world got hurt.
I am writing this, not because of the election or any other event. I am writing this because I am aware and wonder how many other people actually understand social media and how its use is affecting people's moral character and our responsibility to be honorable individuals. Most of us do know right from wrong. We know when someone is being attacked, and we recognize when someone is hurt. It is wrong to sit back and watch it happen or become caught up in it all encouraging further harm. The right action is to step in and protect the victim, to recognize the lie and stand for the honorable person being attacked.
When I see a person being attacked on the internet, I know that I am being influenced to believe a lie. I stand for the victim, because I cherish my moral character. I am a leader, and by my actions, a role model fighting to keep morality and principals alive for our children to learn respect within themselves.
I do not and refuse to support anyone who dares to attack another person anywhere, any time, and for any reason. I will stand for the victim with a force beyond what any manipulation and/or attack can withstand.
Patricia Goodwin, MA
Ivory Garden Nonprofit Corporation
Please do not copy this article without permission from the author. Copyright 2016 Patricia Goodwin - all rights protected.
Last edited by felicity on 12/16/2016, 7:31 pm; edited 1 time in total