Opinion: A New Digital, Cultural Tradition is in the Making

December 7, 2011, By George Lang

Last night I posted a photo to my personal Facebook page as I have done many times before; only, this time, not only that photo, but all the other photos in that album were posted to my wall and shared publicly without my consent. At the same time, another new Facebook glitch was surfacing in the news, allowing even Mark Zuckerberg’s private home photos to become public (MSNBC). Whether these two events are related is best left to Internet security experts, but I doubt they know either.

Fortunately, neither Zuckerberg’s nor my photos are in any way personally compromising; I’m sure that can’t be said for everyone. This is just one chapter in an ongoing saga of potential disasters that force us to rethink networking security; and maybe even our traditional moral and ethical compass in the new digital culture.

It is plain to see from formal studies, pure common sense, and apparent dead-reckoning that many of us are using the Internet for what might be traditionally classified as less-than-savory activities; the key word being traditionally. While the Internet has made obtaining useful content far more convenient, it has also made “not-so-useful” (from a traditional standpoint) content easier to obtain. This fact alone does not a problem make; but when coupled with the increasing likelihood of network security breaches, such as those on Facebook yesterday, it could become a life-changing event for some; one that could compromise even the sparsest “skeletons-in-the-closet” integrity.
What do we do? Do we demand increased Internet security? …or do we lower our moral and ethical expectation of what a human should aspire to be?
Granted, there are many traditional moral and ethical values that are indispensable. Perhaps such security breaches will force individual acceptance of these valuable traditions. On the other hand, mass judgmental condemnation of minor compromising activities can only lead to the loss of some of our most talented and useful minds. When half the world decides the other half should be thrown in jail (which is how political and religious differentiation seems to have become at times), only half the brain power and physical prowess of the nation become available for productive use.

Surely, some unnecessary values are deeply engrained in cultural tradition, and not easily altered; conscious tolerance may be the key until it happens. Facebook and other social media on the Internet are rapidly becoming a brand new cultural phenomenon whose new tradition will require a new and more tolerant approach to inter-relational acceptance.


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