Society has undergone a legion of changes, developments and improvements since the 20th century, which includes scientific progress such as Spacecrafts, Washing Machines, The Internet, 3D printers and the phenomenon of Social Media.
Amid this tumultuous media revolution, many of us are using it to research, study and work online. Today, the nature of journalism hands over ‘the means to publish’ into the ‘hands of citizens’ (Ward, 2010). Many news organizations encourage their reporters to use social media to accumulate information, and also create a ‘brand’ for themselves by starting their own blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter account.
Dissimilar to orthodox journalists whose articles must remain unbiased, numerous bloggers delight in the privilege to speak their mind, with some delegating themselves to roles of ‘activists for political movements, and reject the idea of objective or neutral analysis’ (Ward, 2010).
In these times, the preponderance of companies advocate the use of LinkedIn and Facebook for various commercial reasons. It is desirable for employees to use social media for maintaining rapport with clients, marketing and branding, networking, expanding sales and recruitment. Here is what the 2009 Business.com Social Media benchmarking study found. eMarketer graphed the results:
However, engagement can open the door to the perils of Social media. Bullies can now utilize these platforms to annihilate colleagues; by harassment, discrediting their work, destroying reputations and disrupting relationships.
The Ethics Resource Center’s 2012 report investigates the relation between ethics and social media. It found that ‘the majority of organizations (78%) track employee use of social media during work hours’.
‘Social networking has become very important in our culture, and we wondered if the technology is influencing employees’ views about ethics at work’, the President Patricia Harned explains. ‘Additionally, over the past few years, we have seen companies establish policies concerning social networking in the workplace, so this year it seemed fitting to add questions on the topic’ (Harned, 2012).
Queen Bees and Wannabes is a 2002 self-help book by Rosalind Wiseman that centres on the cliques girls in high schools form, and the patterns of aggressive teen girl behavior and how to deal with them. It provided the foundation for the popular 2004 film Mean Girls. Wiseman refers to the internet as a ‘weapon of mass social destruction’ (Wiseman, 2002).
Cyberbullying can include Trolling, Identity Theft/Impersonation, Photoshopping, Spreading rumours, Physical threats and much more. According to Liam Hackett in his Annual Bullying Survey the level of Cyber Bullying Statistics in UK is a growing trend and 7 in 10 (69%) young people aged 13 and 22 had experienced Cyber bullying with 20% of which had been very extreme (Hackett, 2013).
The vast majority of employees are using social media from the office regardless of permission from employers or not, so what is the best way to manage these concerns? Should ethics be addressed in work and social media policies?
Another issue of concern is anonymity. Many, commentary and chat rooms warrant users to remain unidentified; it is not necessary to register and identify yourself in order to comment. It is beneficial for whistleblowers and fundamentally allows freedom of speech though on the other hand ‘critics say it encourages irresponsible and harmful comments’ (Ward, 2010).
Thus, when is it ethical to allow anonymity online? Should there be different rules regarding anonymity on different platforms?
Photo manipulation has been around for decades. Joseph Stalin generally used it for propaganda, but now in this digital era, new image technology (photos and videos) has brought about new moral dilemmas.
Mobile phones and video recorders allow reporters and the public to capture and upload these images via the web. There are also many new tools that doctor and photoshop images so much so, the manipulation can be undetectable and critics debate the credibility of photographs in the courts of law. This also presents an issue of trust for newspapers; the images sent in by citizens may not always be from a reliable source, and on the flip side a handful of journalists themselves have been found to alter and distort images.
To conclude, slightly less than half (47%) of all organizations currently have a social media policy in place. This policy is most commonly communicated to employees via their employee handbook or through some other form of internal communication (e.g. email, intranet) (Harned, 2012).
I do believe in the preservation of the right to anonymity online but we must tackle, discourage and prevent irresponsible use especially in the cases of malicious intent. Therefore, we are allowed to second-guess the morality and authenticity of others when their words don’t coincide with their actions. Misconduct online, especially in educational and occupational settings can have harmful effects on children and victims, diminish the quality of news and media content and fall flat on actualizing the pro-social benefits of producing valuable and meaningful information.
Hackett, L. 2013. Annual Bullying Survey. 2013. [report] Brighton: Ditch the Label.
Hanna, B. and Kenekes, E. 2009. 2009 Business Social Media Benchmarking Study. General Summary Report based on Insights into Business Social Media Usage provided by Nearly 3000 North American Business Professionals. [report]
Harned, P. 2012. 2012 ERC Social Media in the Workplace. November 2012. [report] Mayfield Village: ERC.
Shafrir, D. 2009. Queen Bees, Wannabes & How Technology Has Changed Teens Forever. Jezebel.com, [blog] 10/13/09. 2.00pm, Available at: http://jezebel.com/5377987/queen-bees-wannabes–how-technology-has-changed-teens-forever [Accessed: 21 Mar 2014].
Ward, Stephen J. A.2010.Ethics for the New Mainstream. In The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking, eds. Paul Benedetti, Tim Currie and Kim Kierans, pp. 313-326. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications, 2010.
Williams, A. 2008. I was there, just ask Photoshop. [online] 18 August. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/fashion/17photo.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&th&emc=th [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].
Wiseman, R. 2002. Queen bees & wannabes. New York: Crown Publishers.