Social Media and Society Decline

Army Social Media

Relating some news about the Internet Week NY 2009, ReadWriteWeb’s Jolie O’Dell ponders:

Is the firehose of social data further killing our attention spans? Are drunken Facebook party pictures necessarily a bad thing?

The last of the two questions made me ponder myself: now really, are drunken Facebook party pictures a bad thing? Extrapolating I went on: is tweeting about your wife’s ass a bad thing? Is uncensored pornography a bad thing? Don’t we live in a free world?

You know, I am a philosophy and religion graduate, so probably I am biased by my own background, but every time I hear anyone advocating the above in the name of “freedom” and “free speech” I shudder a bit.

Demi Moore ButtToo many Internet users are caught in the trap of an apparent freedom that makes them believe that they have the right to publish about anything online, without even considering that they might offend/infringe other people’s freedom by doing so. The simplistic mentality behind these behaviors is easy to sum up: “if they don’t like it, they should not read/watch/look at it.”

Oh, the hypocrisy! These are the same people who would do anything to defend their views, from calling names the ones who express an opinion against their own, to threats, pressure and bullying. Somehow the trolls have the power of the many… Many like to look at drunken Facebook pictures, and many will say “More power to you, Kuthcer” whenever this one decides to expose Demi Moore’s butt on Twitter.

So now I wonder: how much is too much? Where do we draw the line and do we need to draw a line?


  1. says

    There is a big difference between freedom and liberty. Somewhere along the way we shifted emphasis from the latter to the former here in the US to our detriment. Liberty is about eliminating arbitrary government control in our lives. Freedom is about eliminating all outside control in our lives.

    Absolute freedom leads to chaos where everyone does what’s right in their own eyes without acknowledging any outside authority such as religion, society norms, ect.

    People are so fixated on whether or not they can do something they rarely think about whether or not they should.

  2. says

    To begin with, it is a disgusting picture of her ‘sorry ass’ as Deborah called it :D Not at all flattering so I don’t understand what the point of displaying it was, other than that these two need a lot of growing up to do.. Oh, and I can’t even imagine how Demi’s kids would react seeing this.. Any teenager who is sane and decent wouldn’t want to see their mother’s ass displayed on twitter… ;)

    All joking aside, this is a very complicated issue. Publishing offensive material in the name of “freedom of speech” doesn’t just hurt your own brand and reputation, it can have a devastating affect on the younger minds so any such acts should have consequences. But who should decide those consequences?

    New Jersey recently proposed a Social Networking Safety Act, which will allow social network providers (MySpace, Facebook etc.) to sue those users who post offensive or harassing material. This sounds like a good measure as it is intended to protect the kids from cyber bullying and being exposed to porn etc., but it gets ridiculous in that the law requires that the social network provider investigate any complaints it receives from its user community and notify the law enforcement agencies… I can’t trust a social networking company’s investigations into legal matters..

    So ultimately, it’ll always be up to the publishers to be ethically and morally responsible before hitting that publish button.

    Mig: parents cannot always be with the kids and monitor their minute by minute activities, but they can definitely do their part in educating the kids early on, of potential dangers..

    • Mihaela Lica says

      My thoughts exactly, Kavi. I didn’t go “in-depth” with how and why parents cannot monitor minute by minute their children, I was just making the comment to prevent the “it’s your fault if children see porn online.” I’ve been fighting this fight since… forever.

      I am so much with you in the matter of trusting a social network company’s investigations into legal matters. But I am happy that someone else cares about this, be it the city of New Jersey, or anyone else. The truth is that we need a very influential voice to change things in this regard. Maybe Obama? I mean, he should know, he used the Web to reach out to the voters, didn’t he?

  3. Deborah says

    Simply put, one person’s rights end where another person’s (or animal’s) rights begin.

    If a person chooses to publish images of their own sorry butt on Facebook etc, it can and will come back to bite the said sorry butt in the end.

    We’ve all seen it — a public figure has done or said something in the past while they were an unknown which was published and tarnished their reputation down the road.

    It’s common fact that many potential employers now research applicants on the net, and for that matter, so do many people investigate a person they’re about to date. I know of numerous people who have canceled dates after finding information about the person on the net.

    If you want to do something silly, it’s best that you do it privately amongst very trusted friends who will not use it against you in the future ;-)

    Sheri’s comment about being mindful of how your speech or images of another person affects them is spot on. Don’t forget that karma has a nasty and wonderful way of catching up with you.

  4. Shari Voigt says

    Freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility. When our freedom to say or post whatever we please, takes away someone elses freedom to basic human privacy or publicly denigrates them in some way, we’ve clearly crossed the line.

    On the other side of the coin, we probably all have “friends” or even family members who post their own drunken Facebook pictures or spout off profanity in their status messages or tweets. It’s part of their culture and lifestyle and they don’t give it a second thought. Unfortunately, it lives on forever, attributed to them even after they’ve (hopefully) grown up.

    Whether speaking about someone else or about ourselves to the world, we need to be conscious of the “golden rule.” How will your actions, your speech and photos effect someone else?

    • Mihaela Lica says

      I bet Kutcher was not even asking himself the same question when posting the above picture of Moore. Moreover, I bet she didn’t mind at all. ;) So the question is: who of the two needs to grow up. LOL. I know that comparing ordinary people with the stars is not the same thing, but heck, then why do they pretend to be some of us?

  5. Adam Green says

    Realize that the article I cited was written before yours, not in response to yours. But point #1 in that article fits closely with your point. “Monitor your name and pay attention to the results that aren’t really about you.” This shows that even innocent drunken tweeting or playful pictures of a mate can mistakenly affect others, if they share your name. I think this applies to your statement, “Too many Internet users are caught in the trap of an apparent freedom that makes them believe that they have the right to publish about anything online, without even considering that they might offend/infringe other people’s freedom by doing so.”

    I guess my main point in agreement with your post is that actions have consequences. Most people don’t think in those terms when it comes to social networks, so I thought applying it to job searching might make it more personal, and therefore more relevant.

    • Liliana Dumitru-Steffens says

      That makes perfect sense, Adam! I am sure that someone with your skills and abilities could also write a pertinent response to this article as well, and to be honest I would really like to read a more in-depth take about this from you. Maybe we can convince a few other bloggers to join in and start a carnival about this – a great way to learn from each other.

  6. says

    Very well said! The worst offenders are the people who insist on getting their point of view across, but then result in name-calling if you say something contrary to what they believe.

    As far as drawing the line, we must do it with ourselves first. Then, we need to be diligent to associate only with civil people, leaving the Digg, Reddit and Shout gang to manage the unseemly underside of the internet all to themselves.

  7. Adam Green says

    Maybe the question should be addressed in terms of self-interest. It isn’t a matter of speech damaging society at large. People have been complaining about that since Socrates (you said you were a philosophy major), but like Socrates, what you say can come back to haunt you. Your tweets become a part of your permanent Google record. Twitter search only goes back 30 days, but Google will *never* clear its index of your drunken comments. I’ve recently written about this in terms of job searching:

    Try to remember that everything you say, or anyone says about you, will be available to a prospective employer, and they will do that search before hiring you.

    • Mihaela Lica says

      I think she is actually right and I give you Kant to support this “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me” – this basically supports your ideas too, but it stretches the explanation a little bit further. Do not misunderstand freedom from only the perspective of “what you say can come back and haunt you” – this is a very limited view from my perspective. Words are weapons, Mr. Green. What you say can damage other people for life – haven’t you learned that? Or do you live above the rest and you never hurt anyone with your words and your actions?

      Freedom doesn’t mean that we are allowed to say anything we think of: freedom is the power to control our thoughts and actions within the limits of reason and morality. To put it more clearly: you are not free to rape, murder, and basically do anything that constricts other peoples’ freedom. Publishing pornography online without considering that little children might see it is, in my opinion, an impairment of the freedom of the little ones. Oh, I know, you will say that the parents are responsible for what the children do online, and I agree. Adults do have the freedom to choose not to look at porn. But when these publishers use scripts that generate pop-ups made to crash any browser and mate to defeat any firewall, you realize, of course, that the users have no freedom to choose, don’t you?

    • Liliana Dumitru-Steffens says

      Thank you for your comment, Adam. I think Mig pretty much said what I wanted to reply – one thing I’d like to add, a question: how is the article you wrote in any way related to this? Probably number 5? I am a bit puzzled, maybe you would like to elaborate.

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