I’m opening this topic because I’m extremely interested in the ethical rationale of social networking. I’ve read a few studies regarding mirror neurons and realize that humans are remarkably more empathetic than any other creature (that we know of). Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky has made a lot of progress in our understanding of how emotional processes in the brain function. The extent our emotions can reach must explain a good amount of the ethics being advocated in forums all over the web. It is troubling to know that people have taken their lives due to what all too often seems like simple text. In some cases, I’ve noticed the attacks aren’t even towards individuals. Members of this or that social circle still manage to be affected just by reading scrutiny of their group.
When the issue of censorship comes up, I think back to George Carlin’s comedic rant about how swear words are just words. He sort of had a point, but it seems that communication in practice is more dangerous than being “just words”. I don’t like to think the internet will be regulated or censored, but I also don’t think letting people say absolutely anything to anyone is the most considerate way to go about global networking. I used a vicious style of rhetoric on this forum for the pro-soylent “side” and was still met with warnings of caution. The principles being advocated are being upheld with consistency, otherwise my tone would have been overlooked in favor of my pro-soylent rant.
I used to be the kind of early networker that absolutely loved trolling and fighting mindless flame wars. The problem is freedom of speech was not very well understood when it took 10 years and countless dollars just to send a scrap of paper that said “hi”. People are much more frivolous with their words today because they seem so cheap, but there are numerous expenses that are beyond justifiable calculation.
What do you guys think, are there two sides to this coin?
Is there any justification for cruel banter?
Are there any costs to total ethical discourse?
How do you see the costs and benefits (if any) weighing against each other?