Ethics And Social Media – Why We Need To Talk About Them NOW

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EthicsThis article is an excerpt from the introduction to the 1st edition of Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, which is now available on Amazon. Click HERE to find out more about the book and to get instant access to a free 90-minute Tweep-e-licious Twitter marketing class.

These days, ‘ethics’ is a hot topic, especially when we start talking about big business and advertising. Terms like ‘ corporate social responsibility ’ (CSR) have recently entered our business vocabulary. Generally we associate the term CSR with how well a business takes responsibility for its impact upon the environment, and how well it upholds social justice when dealing with employees and residents of the local region in which they operate. But while these are the ‘mega’ issues we tend to hear about in the media, the fundamental issue of ‘ethics’ has a far deeper and more personal purport. Carrying out our natural duty to ‘do no harm’ to our planet and humanity does not automatically make us ‘ethical’. Ethics is not simply the absence of a negative; it is not a list of ‘rules’ we should follow and ‘regulations’ we should not break. Rather, it is a vibrant code that expresses our values. When we live an ethical life or run an ethical business, it means our decisions, policies and behaviour are all congruent with our values, and that these values illuminate a higher purpose and vision for the world.

What that actually ‘looks like’ is, admittedly, more than a bit hazy. What one person puts at the forefront of their values may not match another person’s values. But I believe when we dig deeply enough and get to the core of the intent behind those values, we find a great deal of common ground. For example, I hear a lot of people say they think ‘greed’ is the ‘evil’ that drives people to be unethical. But I believe greed is just a symptom of something subtler. Beneath greed, you will always find fear – fear of loss, fear of survival, fear of rejection, or whatever. And if you dig even more deeply to look beneath the fear, you will eventually find the root cause from which the apparently ‘unethical’ behaviour of greediness was born: a fundamental feeling of disconnection. It is my view that disconnection is at the root of all so-called ‘evils’ in the world. When we feel disconnected from Self, people or planet, we open the door to various shades of ‘unethical’ behaviour. Greed is just one of the darker shades of disconnection.

‘If you dig even more deeply to look beneath the fear, you will eventually find the root cause from which the apparently ‘unethical’ behaviour of greediness was born: a fundamental feeling of diconnection.’

It is my repeated observation that if you look beneath the surface of any ‘unethical’ behaviour, whether it be of an environmental, economic or societal nature, you will always find the ‘ Deadly Sin of Disconnection ’ (as I call it in my book The 7 Graces of Marketing) as its point of origin. Because of this, if our view of ‘ethics’ is defined solely by behaviour rather than the cause of that behaviour, we as a society are likely never to reach consensus about what is ‘ethical’ and what is not. Rather, we only increase this Deadly Sin of Disconnection by putting people into categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘evil’. At its most extreme, this superficial understanding of ethics can produce a polarity of thought that creates a sword of division between individuals, races and nations, and becomes the fuel of crime, terrorism and warfare.

Because of this, I prefer to take a core-focused perspective of ethics, where the underlying assumption is that if we are driven by a desire to create a deeper, more genuine, more respectful connection with others, our outward behaviour will automatically be ‘ethical’.  And while I will openly express my personal views on what I believe ‘ ethical marketing ’ might look like on social media (and Twitter in particular), I do respect that you will undoubtedly have your own interpretations of what is and is not ethical, which may differ from mine.

Why Is It Important To Talk About Ethics NOW?

The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility came about in response to an urgent need of our changing times: the need to address ecological imbalance and social injustice. Similarly, while this book, Tweep-e-licious, is at its essence a practical guide to using Twitter, my decision to incorporate ethics into this book is a response to something even more important: the need to address how social media is changing the way we communicate.

The rise of social media is arguably the fastest paradigm shift in communication humankind has ever experienced. In The 7 Graces of Marketing I shared statistics showing that our adoption of communication platforms like Facebook and Twitter has spread at lightning speed, hundreds of times faster than the adoption of either the telephone or television in the 20th century. Social media has slipped into our lives so quickly and so pervasively that many people find it overwhelming, confusing, or even repugnant. Others have embraced it with great enthusiasm, seeing it as an alluring, wide-open canvas for experimentation and innovation.

But within that vast, exciting world of lightning-speed change, experimentation and innovation lies a dilemma: the old paradigms for communication are being stretched and morphed into a new culture we don’t fully understand yet. We’re making up the rules as we go along, like a mob. When things start to get out of hand, the policy makers behind platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn step in and announce a new set of ground rules. Then, all the end users have to shift gears and the whole mob dynamic starts again. You could say that social media is one big global communication laboratory, and that every one of us is playing a part in its creation. If we can step back from our personal feelings about social media just enough to look at it from a sociological perspective, we can perhaps begin to appreciate what a powerful and fascinating chapter in human history this is.

On Twitter, our communications are no longer limited by time and space; instead they are limited to 140 characters. Our conversations are no longer with one person at a time, but with hundreds or even thousands. And because we are in the midst of a major shift in our communication paradigms, we are also in the midst of a shift in our paradigms for ethics. Our old ideas about privacy and propriety are being challenged. Many ‘old school’ advertisers are starting to stick out like sore thumbs when they barge into our new communication universe. We can sense that the status quo of business and marketing is changing, but we have not yet reached a consensus as to what is ‘ethical marketing’ and what is not.

‘…because we are in the midst of a major shift in our communication paradigms, we are also in the midst of a shift in our paradigms for ethics.’

Reaching that consensus is what we as a world are being called upon to do now, while we are still amidst this blitz of change. There is no point in talking about ethics AFTER things have ‘settled down’. If we wait until then, the ethical standards that emerge will most likely be the dogma of the loudest or most powerful voice. If this happens to be a large corporate or political entity whose primary motive is to protect their financial or political interests, chances are that dogma will be only a slight variation of the old paradigm.  No, we cannot wait any longer; the only sensible time to talk about ethics is when we are exactly where we are now – confused.

It is only within the ‘mess’ of our confusion that we will find our greatest resource for innovation and social change. A vibrant, new, value-driven paradigm for ethics can only be created if we begin the dialogue NOW, rather than wait for big businesses, governments or even the social media platforms themselves to make our minds up for us….

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The previous article is an excerpt from the introduction to the book Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, which is  available NOW on Amazon. The book is a practical guide to using Twitter with focus on ethics, communication, connection, relationships, collaboration , relevance and respect.

 

Click HERE to find out more about the book and how you can download a free 90-minute Tweep-e-licious class PLUS a Twitter resource pack with links to over 100 useful info articles and Twitter tools.

AND, as always, please do share your comments and reflections below.


Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing LYNN SERAFINN , MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell’ and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically.She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.

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Let the dialogue continue...

2 Responses to Ethics And Social Media – Why We Need To Talk About Them NOW

  1. Another fascinating insight into social media, Lynn … I am definitely one of those who embraced social media with “great enthusiasm, seeing it as an alluring, wide-open canvas for experimentation and innovation” … very much looking forward to reading the book in the hope that it may rekindle my love-affair with Twitter, which has become very disconnected and stale over the past 12 months …!

  2. Pingback: Greed and other unethical business behaviors come from……… | iWillHelp

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