Monday, February 20, 2012

Online Vs. Offline Communication - Is Digital Media Virtuous?

I stumbled across this interesting topic on Santa Clara University's website (Source: Markkula Center For Applied Ethics). It brings up the discussion of "interpersonal virtues" and how it impacts digital media. The article delves into the psychological impact that social media plays on human communication and interpersonal relationships...a timely and important topic for business professionals who have an online presence.
From a Virtue PerspectiveMany of the interpersonal virtues we value evolved in the context of face-to-face communication. Honesty, openness, and patience, for example, are honed in the negotiations we must manage when we meet people in person. What impact will digital media have on these virtues? What, for example, would honesty mean in the context of a world where people are represented by avatars? Will other virtues emerge as more important in social networking, where we can be constantly connected to a large reservoir of others and can shut off communications easily when we are bored or encounter difficulties?
This topic begs the question: has honesty gone out the window? What's happened to our interpersonal virtues?

Is your projected self online the same person you are offline? It goes back to the smoke and mirror effect of online interactions. You can pretend to be whatever you want to be online because of the anonymity factor.

Does the online dynamic make it that much easier to create a false 'illusion'? My answer is yes. Do we REALLY know who we are talking to on the other side of the screen? We see and hear about these stories on the news every day. People who have been duped and scammed online; they were ruined financially and their identities stolen. Young women have been hurt -- both physically and emotionally -- as a result of trusting and believing they were meeting teen boys and ended up face-to-face with adult sex offenders. I don't mean to sound paranoid, but it's important to be safe and take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety.

As much as I love social media and believe in the benefits of social media, I wonder if social media has made us less "human" when it comes to our interpersonal communication and relationships. Yes, social media connects us with thousands of people across the world, and gives us the opportunity to do business with amazing people. However, do we really practice what we preach?

I leave you with this question: as business professionals, do you incorporate your offline ethics into your online world? Do you treat people the same way as you would treat them face-to-face?  


  1. I have found that so many people - online - are not at all the type person I thought they were, nor are they who they said they were. I think people - eventually - show their true colors. I am cautious, but try not to be too paranoid. On the other side of the coin, screw up with me once by being derogatory or abusive and I click "unfriend" and you are gone. I try to be honest, helpful, truthful, and do it with integrity. I was a Girl Scout after all. And I was raised by a mom who taught me the Golden Rule.

  2. We generally try to be nicer online, I think. I do, anyway, but I don't just "quit" that offline, but always strive for it. But it's harder in the real world because we have to do other things than just sit around and talk about life, or our work, family, friends, etc. So we're not always seeing the inside of someone in life as we can online (which is life, too). So I always take things with a grain of salt, understand that I'm part of it (the solution or the problem, however you want to look at it), and move forward the best I can. It doesn't demoralize me that people lie, or try to be better "here" than "there". It just is what it is.


Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies