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The internet and morals

04 March 2013, 15:13

On Valentine’s Day this year a man shot his girlfriend, about five minutes after the incident came to be public knowledge, just about every form of social media was flooded with the usual comments, this time however people were joking about it. Joking about a woman who could have possibly been the victim of an abuse or about a poor man who could have made a mistake and shot the woman he loved. I’m not here to argue about whether or not he was guilty; I’m here to ponder about whether you or I are guilty.

Sometimes I like to be snarky when I’m on the internet, but not when it comes down to real life issues. Surely that’s where the buck stops, where we need to take responsibility for what we say and wonder if in ‘real life’ we would actually say it. If not, why is it okay to joke about it on the internet then?

I confronted a few of my Facebook associates on their statuses, some apologised some told me to get off my soap box and stop preaching. When did it become preaching to question joking about one of the big ‘do not’s’ in this world, don’t kill, and does the fact that he was a public figure make it okay to joke about? If a famous man had raped his wife or a famous woman had accidentally drowned her baby, would this be okay to laugh about? Are we so hardened to the ways of the world that the only thing left to do is laugh about it, or are we so detached from our fellow man to even care unless something has a direct impact on our lives.

With the dawn of Facebook and Twitter it has become easy to just mouth off about anything and everything without actually thinking about it, we have seen time and time again how people have made derogatory statements on one of the platforms and have gotten into ‘real life’ trouble for their words. We need to realise that in fact this cyber world we often immerse our lives in is directly related to the real world and at the essence of it who we are as people.

It’s not some distant far off land where we can say or do anything without any consequences or some confrontation regarding our views regardless of what they are or if they are deemed wrong or right. There are of course times when all of us have said something we regret, that’s just life I guess. But continued trolling really does shine some light in who we are as moral creatures. At what point do the morals we’ve been taught or innately have while we are on the internet.

When did it become okay to go onto News24 and put a blatantly racist sexist or truly evil comment up just because no one knows who you are? Would you scream “Afrikaaner’s are the route of all evil and scum of the earth,” at the top of your lungs in the middle of the next Park Acoustics? Or “All Black’s are criminals and should be shot,” at Faraday Station during rush hour? The ability to be anonymous can free us up to express some things we would never openly express in public, but does this make it right? Why should anonymity matter though? Surely we are taught or inclined to be at least somewhat decent in our daily dealings in the real world? Why should the same not be true for the world of the Internet?

One of the first things we are taught in school is that with rights come responsibilities something that is seen throughout literature and history. We need to be responsible with our thoughts and actions even though we have the right to freedom of speech.

What are your thoughts? Comment below!  

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