Are We Our Social Profiles?
Exploring Social Media and Identity
Credit: http://aimiewallace.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/identity1.jpgIdentity is an abstract thing, yet society constantly tries to define it in order to give it purpose within society. The state doesn't use identity simply to make each person a number in the system, but does so to benefit people who have aligned their identities with that state, particularly by protecting their personal information and the property linked to their identity. In the case of social media, security of identity and the maintenance of personal privacy is even more difficult because social media identity is even more indefinable. Are we our social profiles? Can they represent who we are in the same way our real existence does? These are among many metaphysical questions that may need to be answered about social profiles. In the following consideration and evaluation of ethics in social networks, it is important to first speculate whether the social identity of a person is synonymous with and representative of that individual’s legitimate identity—meaning people are who their social profiles state that they are and are to be held legally, philosophically, and ethically accountable to them. However, before making this assertion, it is necessary to look at the society’s view of the issue.
The rapid development of social technology has inhibited legal regulations from adapting alongside of them, which leaves our world in a state of transition. This transitive state makes the ethics of social media a much grayer area than it might otherwise be if laws were in place to implicate an action as legally wrong. Legality is often dictates what people believe to the socially and morally acceptable, so this lack of authority has led to an ambiguous understanding of ethical standards in the society of social media. Ambiguity often causes an individual to tend towards the ethical side that is most beneficial to themselves. In the case of social media, this has led to a belief that individuals are not responsible for the actions of their social profiles. Thus, actions that people might consider to be unethical and dangerous in the real world are more “amoral” if not moral in a social network. The public often turns a blind eye towards these amoral actions as a response to the lack of authority in the social media spectrum; the absence of an authority means there is no ruling over what is what is not a socially acceptable behavior. Inadequate restriction of social media has major ramifications. An important consequence is that people have no basis off which to build what Aristotle called "practical reason," or an mid-ground between opposing sides of behavioral and emotional Credit: http://firstcallmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/fb.jpgexpression. This is a time when unparalled technology is emerging, people don't inherently know how to behave in a virtual environment, and there is no figure of "social media virtue" that they can emulate. As a result of these things, it seems that the public at large does not believe that social profiles are equivalent to real identity and act as if the virtual world is not bound as tightly, if at all, in the same ethics and laws of the real world. If they did, there may be no need to create a new authority to dictate what is socially—and therefore ethically—acceptable.
The government's attempt to become this authority is what causes conflict between the state and the people. As the state struggles to regulate and restrain the public’s use of social media, the people in turn determine whether those actions are ethically acceptable to them. The difficulty in this exchange is that social media has already existed a state of freedom, so any action the state decides to take is only going to be seen as restrictive even if it meant to be protective of people's identities and personal privacy.
This concudes Part II of "Evaluating Social Media Ethics," Part III addresss the privacy ethics of social media.
Credit: http://firstcallmagazine.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/a-facebook-identity/Credit: http://firstcallmagazine.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/a-facebook-identity/