RETHINKING OUR MANNERS ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA
“If the media are to be correctly employed, it is essential that all who use them know the principles of the moral order and apply them faithfully in this domain.” (Inter Mirifica, 4)
I had intended to begin a series which I would want to use woo the youth to an active and sincere participation in politics. My motivation for that is my belief that only the youth can save themselves; the old generation virtually has little or nothing to offer us to improve our future. Therefore, unless we snatch our future back from their hands, they will continue to jeopardize it as some of them are doing right now. However, I just felt that before we can talk of taking back our future and righting the wrongs already done to it, the youths must prove themselves matured enough for the task. So while we look forward to beginning the series from next month, we intend to discuss one dangerous trend that rob the youth the much needed social relevance and maturity, that is, insensitivity to social ethics on Social Media.
In this little piece, we shall be using the term “social ethics” in a very loosed sense but not far removed from its professional usage. An author noted that social ethics has to do with the principles and guidelines that regulate corporate welfare within a society, specifically with regard to determining what is deemed right and just and noble. There are two points we could derive from that definition for our purpose here. First, our actions can affect the social welfare of others. Second, our actions can affect our personal integrity depending on their rightness or wrongness. Having made that little clarification and connection, let us now see in practical terms how some of our actions over the social media have been endangering the welfare of others and by extension destroying our personal integrity. But first, a little fact about the social media.
LIFE IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA
Recently, the Facebook co-founder and CEO, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg appeared before the US Senate Judiciary Committee and Commerce Committee joint hearing to answer questions from Senators about Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a British political consulting firm which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It is alleged that this firm helped Donald Trump get elected as president by collecting a trove of Facebook user data for some 50 million people without ever getting their permission, according to a report from the New York Times. Now, that session with the US Senate further confirmed the fact that we do on the social media is really private no matter what we are promised. That calls for caution because anything we do or say can affect us or others adversely or positively. Undoubtedly, people use the social media for various reasons ranging from business to pleasure. For many, the social media help them to ease off tension. Hence, one can see many people cracking different kinds of jokes and sharing different forwarded messages. But the question is, “What kind of data do you post or share?” Do we even know that whatever we share represent us in our absence?
I had cause to unfriend one of my friends on Facebook for one of the reasons I embarked on this write-up. After one football match in which Lionel Messi came in for Barcelona FC as a substitute, the game changed and Barcelona came from 2 goals down to equalize the match. Good enough! That marked Messi out as an exceptional footballer. But now, this former friend of mine went to the Facebook and wrote, “Later one idiot will come n tell me Ronaldo is better than Messi…” Now, I am a fan of Christiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, and I am among those who maintain that Ronaldo is better than Messi. How does that make me an IDIOT? Bad enough, another fellow fan of Ronaldo borrowed the thought after Ronaldo’s acrobatic scoring during the quarter final match between Juventus Football Club and Real Madrid Football Club. I equally had to unfriend the latter. The point here is that social media does not give us the privilege to be abusive.
Another friend of mine, this time in real life, gave me her Curriculum Vitae (C.V.) in case I’m able to help her secure a job anywhere. As God would have it, one of my friends told me that he was looking for a trustworthy person he would employ as a secretary in his company, with a mouthwatering salary. I gave him my friend’s CV. I know this lady to be very good and from a good background. For all I know, she is not a flirt and not given to deceit. This man, as a matter of company’s policy, ran an underground check on her Facebook account. Her postures and the types of forwarded messages she was tagged in, presented a wrong picture of her. She was not the one who created those posts nor share them but she allowed her friends to tag her. The sins of her friends made her lose the job and her own pictures did not offer her a defense. Two years on, she is still searching.
There is another incidence that happened in a WhatsApp group that I belong to. One of us woke up one day and started insulting everyone that dared to talk to him that day. That had been his way even in the past. But on this, everyone could feel the dirtiness of his utterances. One elderly woman in the group just told everyone to ignore him because trouble is his second name. What do you think would happen when anyone in that group gets to a stage that this young man needs a recommendation from him/her? What kind of person would he be described as?
There are so many other instances but I suppose that the above ones could suffice in bringing out our point. Bad attitude, in words and actions, destroys the integrity and future of the carrier; it is more harmful in the social media as one may not be there or have another opportunity to defend oneself or correct an already created impression. To this I will add the bad attitude of people who always forward horrific images without minding how others feel about it. Even the sacredness of human life now means nothing to people, not even to those who should know better. We need a change surely.
CONCLUSION: THE WAY OUT
The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Means of Social Communication, Inter Mirifica, no. 10 has a beautiful conclusion and remedy to offer. It says, “Those who are at the receiving end of the media, and especially the young, should learn moderation and discipline in their use of them. They should aim to understand fully what they see, hear and read. They should discuss them with their teachers and with experts in such matters and should learn to reach correct judgements. Parents on their part should remember that it is their duty to see that entertainments and publications which might endanger faith and morals do not enter their houses and that their children are not exposed to them elsewhere.” So there must be a correspondence between the young and the population that is made up of their formators. The young must desire to live politely in and out of the social media and the elders must be willing to help them embrace that desire.
First published in THE CATHOLIC BEACON, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2018, p. 21.