As a blogger who blogs on ethics from time to time, it has occured to me, hey, maybe I do some blogging on the ethics of blogging.
Then I thought, hey, I can’t recall many Christians saying much on the ethics of blogging, or tweeting or facebooking. I wonder why that is? Maybe I should look deeper? So I went for a search, of Christian and nonChristian sites, and here are a few links I found of interest:
- Do bloggers have ethics?
- Note on Christian ethics of blogging
- Right or Wrong? The ethics of blogging
- The Present and Future of Social Networking
Note, I found NOTHING on ethics related to facebook or twitter by Christians.
Another gap? What do you think are some important ethical issues?
9 thoughts on “The ethics of blogging and tweeting”
I can’t think of any ethical issues that don’t apply equally to other communications media. Perhaps I’m betraying my McLuhanist heritage, but in this case I don’t think the medium makes much difference.
The sins of blogging! (and commenting on blogging…)
1) Spreading rumours.
2) Inflaming opinion. (Peaceful perseverance is hardly a news item, whereas an “outcry” is apparently a newsworthy event in the current climate…)
3) Self-absorption? As in: How many bloggers does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, and it’s not difficult: (a) hold light bulb in socket, (b) wait for world to revolve around self.
4) Having to have something to say.
5) Chasing audience share for its own sake.
6) Placing one’s TOP 100 CHURCH BLOGS award at the TOP of one’s sidebar! Sheer hubris! (You’re OK Matt, I checked it was at the bottom).
… To be continued? …
Maybe I’m a bit simplistic, but to me the ethics of blogging are just like the ethics of any other form of communication. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do take time to understand another’s viewpoint. Comment on the issue and perhaps another blogger’s behaviour, but avoid character assasination, and don’t assume bad motives. Be clear about what is personal opinion, reference the opinions (or research) of others.
I think you can see character pretty clearly in blogging. The sad thing is that some people who are quite religious are not at all Christ-like as revealed by their blogging behaviour. As Jesus said: (Matthew 15: 18) “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart”. Or indeed, out of the keyboard.
I must say I’m with Janet here.
I recall an atheist friend relating how he had to explain the concept of “gentleness and respect” (from the classic apologetics text in 1 Peter 3:15-16) to some self-styled Christian web apologist, who seemed not to have encountered the idea previously.
As someone who originally came to blogging through OpenDiary and similar sites, a good portion of my blogging tends to be of a personal nature, the kind of stuff you might find in a diary. As a result, when I think of the ethics of blogging, I often think about issues of anonymity and privacy.
I don’t live my life in a vacuum, and there are other people who play important parts in the drama in which I live. And some of the situations and issues I’m dealing with are about those other people too. So I find myself often wondering to what degree I can share without violating other people’s own privacy. If I’m having an issue with my boyfriend, to what degree is it okay to discuss it on my blog? What if that issue revolves around some past hurt he’s experienced or some fear he’s dealing with that affects our relationship? There are reasons why I don’t talk about my love life (insomuch as I have one) much on my blog any more. And it all started because one guy I dated for a while was reading my blog, and I decided I didn’t want him to find out what was on my mind by reading my blog rather than by me telling him directly. I also began to wonder if it would be okay to broadcast that information to others before talking to him directly even if he hadn’t been reading the blog for himself. So I began to rethink things there.
Also, some people blog anonymously, or at least try to keep the existence of their blog from their real life friends. To what degree should others respect that. If you know the identity of a blogger, is it ever right to “out” them? How vigilant should one be against slips of the tongue in such a circumstances. As a worst case example of this, I’ll note one blogger I know who lost a job due to a vicious reader. The blogger in question used to work for a Christian school as a teacher and coach. A few years ago, he started his blog to try to come to terms with his same sex attractions. At first, he chose to remain celibate and otherwise take the “ex-gay” route. A year or so ago, he decided to come out and seek to live a life of monogamy with another man. One of his readers took issues with this, knew the blogger’s identity, and contacted the administration at the school he worked for. Suddenly, said blogger was out of a job. (Now, we can argue whether it’s moral for a gay person to work at a Christian school at some other point. But regardless of that, I still think that one reader decided to take matters into his own hands like that is highly unethical and reprehensible.)
Matt I did some work in this area in an article entitled “Twittering towards (im)mdediacy”. You may or may not see the reflections as “ethics”:
Awful story Jarred… but I do think the principle holds that ethics in blogging and ethics in “real life” should be indistinguishable… at least for anyone who seeks to live with integrity.
If someone shared with me an activity I thought was immoral (though not illegal, nor under constraints of mandatory reporting) I would urge them to do the right thing… but I wouldn’t abuse trust by taking the matter out of their hands. That action was plain nasty IMO.
The example illustrates something else I think… when someone is sharing something that is a tender-hearted issue, it deserves to be treated tenderly. Whether online or in real life… what you do with an out there opinion (X thinks horse Y will win the Melbourne Cup) and what you do with a personal issue are two very different things. In real life you listen intently and respectfully to the “heart stuff”… opinions lend themselves to banter and different protocols apply. And you assume confidentiality on “heart issues” because they are precious to the person, and are more likely to wound if the confidence is abused.
Seems common sense to me… then again, common sense probably isn’t as common as its name suggests.
Some of what Jarred said comes down to not knowing who is actually reading it. When speaking to a group of people or emailing, you know who is hearing your news, often with an understanding that certain things are not told to certain people.
In a public format, certain people we talk about are PROBABLY not going to read it, but we can never be sure. Like teenagers put things on Facebook assuming it will be their peers who read it, and then their parents read it too.
Nic, I’d say it goes beyond ethics, whilst still all sorts of ethical questions. Besides goodness there are also issues of truth and beauty. Does Twitter enhance the search for truth … or triviality?