Social media re-defines values in the society

Sonia Ambrosio – soniambrosio@gmail.com – It is time to face that information technology and social media are affecting ethics and etiquette. Social and moral behaviour are in turmoil. Though ethics and etiquette are different — one is philosophical and moral, the other is about politeness and good breeding — both are intrinsically linked. Human behavioural studies say that the social-cultural environment has a deep and strong effect on the social behaviour of the majority society members.
A person will think and act in accordance with a culture that he was raised in.
So, culture — somehow — organises and interprets society values and its understanding. The breach of politeness and courtesy
reflect poorly on the individual and on the society in the same way that professional ethics — or the lack of it — reflect on individuals, companies, and society.
It is difficult to develop a sense of moral judgment on what is right or wrong where
good breeding and values of mutual respect are absent.
You probably have heard about divorce via Whatsapp, or relationships been broken via social platforms, spreading rumours,
fraudulent actions as well as coercion and extortion online.
The first divorce announced on social media was in 2009 under the newspaper headline ‘Husband dumps his wife with online message in ‘world’s first divorce by Facebook’.
Assuming that cyberspace exists as a separate area of the physical world and that it has its own moral and cultural aspects, the Internet has bent the meaning of privacy and created the sphere of openness as well as the gap for ‘online disinhibition’.
We have reached a confusing boundary between the public and private areas, between openness and secrecy, publicity and privacy, selfishness and trust.
The loosening of social restrictions and inhibitions — that are normally present in face-to-face interactions — takes place in relations on the Internet.
Anonymity has encouraged antisocial and harmful behaviour such as rude language, pornography, crime and violence on the Internet — actions that would probably be minimised or not carried out in real life.
Labelling, name calling, and rants are becoming common in social media.
It is largely believed that ‘Netiquette’ — the guidelines for good behaviour when communicating via Internet — has its own set of standards shared by a group of people — yet, social media are reproducing the negative features of social-cultural aspects.
If technology grows a mind of its own, what ethical obligations do we have for its behaviour?
Don’t get me wrong.
The ‘social and mobile’ is obviously a breakthrough in the development of communication.
But where is it taking us? The passion for knowledge is slowly being left behind by the frenzy of digitalisation.
We are losing out physical proximity and solidarity.
Besides, we are seeing the rise of new social norms and ethical values.
As a result, it is reasonable to assume that future ethical issues may seem far out today.
The social and professional values with which we judge now are changing.
Attitudes, which we despise, are becoming okay in real life, and online. A pleasant social etiquette is becoming obsolete; disrespectful professional attitudes might become ordinary and accepted.
These changes are redefining our values.
The public, lawmakers, educators, and others who outline what is right or wrong might not be able to consider all the ramifications of the emerging concerns brought by the Internet and social media.
There are complex future ethical issues that may take years to be assessed and addressed.
However, before it becomes a matter of urgency, we need to encourage debate on social-cultural behaviour that are not ruled by law, in the same way we need to evaluate the
redefinition of our values — always keeping in mind that communication technology is here to stay.