Ethics of Social Media
Social media has become an integral part of our life over the last few years. Social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and more are used by online surfers to interact with people whom they may or may not personally know. It is pertinent to be aware of the ethical and no-ethical issues related to the use of social media to be able to use it without causing any problems for yourself or others. In the following discussion I would like to analyze these issues in depth.
Ethical or Moral Issues
Following is a detailed analysis of the ethical and moral issues related to the use of social media.
Online viewers of the shared information: The fundamental ethical issues that arises is who is viewing the information that a person shares in his own circle of online friends. It could be argued that if a person shares some information “publically”, there should be no restrictions on whoever views it. In my opinion, the fundamental ethical dilemma is how and individual defines “public”. Is it the friends of my friends? Or is it the friend of my friend’s friend or the next level?
The purpose of viewing the social media information: Why is someone using social media? Is it to make social relations? Or is it to pass judgements on others? This main idea of social media networks was to establish social relational networks but with time people have been using it to make decisions related to admissions, job selection processes and many other decisions whose nature is non-social. The fundamental question here is if it is wrong or right?
The appropriateness of the relations on social media: these ethical issues relates to the nature of the social relations on the social media. For example can a teacher become a friend to his student on Facebook? There might be benefits of becoming friends with a student like you could share course material and information related to deadlines. But is the data shared by a student, in any way going to affect the judgement of the teacher in grading and other disciplinary issues is the ethical concern that needs clarification.
There are many non-ethical issues that are discussed related to the use of social media. Social media has been found to cause mental health issues due to its addictive nature. I sometimes personally find it irritating when I am using Facebook or Twitter for hours without realizing how much time I have wasted. Social media also privacy related issues. It is highly debatable that how social network organization treat your personal information. What are the circumstances when your information is provided to legal authorities? Whom do they share your information with? There are several legal issues related to the use of social media. For example what are the legal implications of a statement made over the social media?
Confucian Five Virtues
The above ethical issues related to the use of social media can be approached in the light of several ethical theories and principles. I would like to use the Five Virtues identified by Confucius to provide an overview of my understanding of the ethical issues. These five virtue provide a guidance in Confucian philosophy to deal with ethical issues.
Humaneness/Benevolence: the approach towards the ethical issues in the social media are directly related to the human nature and the choices that we make as humans. For example if one decided to be to act on the higher standards of humanity, he/she will not drop to the level where he would avoid to unnecessarily view the personal information of other on the social media that are not intended to be shared with him/her. In the same way his/her purpose would not be to harm others via social media nor would he/she make unnecessary judgements based on the information seen on the social media.
Justice: Justice is the main ingredient of a harmonious society. If the society is morally and ethically based on justice, there would be not reasons to abuse the rights of others based on the information shared online.
Ritual Propriety: the main idea behind this virtue is openness and positivizes towards each other. If this virtue prevails, social media will not be abused. Personal spaces will not be violated. Social media will be used for healthy social relation rather than a tool to target each other.
Wisdom: Wisdom is a virtue where we can see beyond our nose. On the social media, wisdom can prove to be an internal compass to do well and avoid evil. Thus whole perspective of social media will change. A sense will prevail where everyone will be conscious about the social media activities of others.
Integrity: integrity is a sense of respect towards one’s self and others. This quality can help us to learn to respect others. On social media it has become a huge problem where people abuse each other based on stereotypical thinking. Human integrity is at stake. People are looking for flaws in others and abusing them based on gender, race, religion, physical appearance and other factors.
This exercise have provided me an insight into the very basics of what are the main ethical issues related to social media and how can we apply the ethical and moral standards identified by different philosophers and theorists to build a perspective on these issues. I am now able to approach the ethical issues related to social media in a manner where I am not just critical of these issues, but also I know how I should personally behave while I am using social networks. I have realized that there are times where you have to look after your own actions and move in a direction where you are not contributing to the society in a negatively. In case of social media, I have to be careful about what comments I make about what others have shared, be respectful of others and not try to reach information that is not intended to be share with me. Following ethical standard over the social media network cans ensure the establishment of healthy social relations.