The introduction of IT has had a pronounced impact on the behavior and personalities of individuals and the Virtual community members. Some of the impacts are good and are in support of moral values. Others are negative to what society holds as moral. However, what may be moral to one community may be immoral to another. This varies across the whole world. However, we have to address the issue of ethics from one community point of view. This is a virtual community where everybody can be a member of the whole world. This paper will discuss the age of information in relation to ethics. It will look at indicators of conformity and non-conformity. The impacts shall also be discussed. Some speculations will be discussed, of which most are imaginations. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn based on the arguments.
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Non-conformity to morals
The issues of non-conformity to the required social and moral standards with regard to the use of cyberspace in influencing people’s behaviors and personalities appear to be more than the originally desired conformity to the moral standards. There have been very many cases of impersonification on the Internet. In cyberspace, you do not have to stay and learn the behavior or the personality of a person. The personalities of people are deduced from the way they communicate on the web. The kind of literature he references, the media he uses to communicate his ideas, his religion, the kind of friends he has, his lifestyle, his priorities, and such kind of stuff that he puts on the Internet form the basis of defining his or her personality (Hugh, 1995).
The personalities defined in this space could be true or could just be mere imagination. In other cases, it may be serious when one has used another person’s details to create a negative personality (Alex, 1973). In society, almost the whole world community condemns the act of impersonification. This point can be put clear by taking a brief review of the story of Mr. Stink. Mr. Stink has been putting very demoralizing and negative information about women on the WELL bulletin board. He is a molester who has been for quite some time been harassing women. When the molester is finally banished, the fellow users of this board criticize the act by asking for justice. One WELLian asks whether it is possible to call themselves open virtual communities when the web managers lock out members who communicate in a way that does not please most WELLians. The story becomes more interesting when Mr. Stink’s identity is revealed and he publicly admits his anti-women works. It is also discovered that he had stolen the account of his brother and used it to post the alter ego. This is impersonification because Mr. Stink could do whatever he wanted. After all, he knew there were no personal repercussions because he after all was using the other person’s identity. Later, it is discovered that the real personality of Mr. Stink is of a family many with a wife and children, his real identity is Mr. Bennet, a member of other cyberspace conferences like Christianity where he is a mild-mannered participant, he has a job and a social conscience, a religion and a quiet disposition. What an impersonification to pursue his immoral activities!
In cyberspace, it is possible for a person to have as many personalities as the number of conferences and discussions as he may have (Walker, 1999). At one point when on a religious forum, you can be perceived to be very religious by the way you quote the verses from the Bible or from the Quran. You can brainstorm your views in a civilized manner taking caution about the kind of people you are addressing. On another forum where you are discussing say about sex and youth, your testimonies on how have been doing sex can create a different personality of the same you. It is clear that in the first forum, your contribution helped in promoting social morality while the second personality is somehow immoral and in this way, cyberspace is promoting both immortality and morality.
The Internet is accessible to millions of people. Therefore, it is important to know that millions are watching what others are putting on the Internet. A seemingly convincing idea on an immoral thing can result in a massive change of what a person has been seeing as moral in a single day. It is estimated that over seven hundred million people access the Internet every day and there is a possibility of accessing an idea on immorality. For example, if an argument is published on the net on the medical benefits of smoking opium, more youth around the world are likely to be convinced and change their prior immoral view they had on this substance while the actual truth is that it does more harm than good when taken (Sherry 2001).
Traditionally, each culture has its own ways by which marriage, courtships, and friendships are made. There are pre-set methods of handling any negative outcomes of such activities. But with the introduction of cyber hooking and relationships, people’s original morals have been perverted with regard to the respect and values attributed to these social relationships. As a result, it is complex to solve the problems that may result when online relationships are broken. This feature of cyberspace has led to people disregarding the moral teachings of their cultures and started adopting the teachings of a different culture (Theresia & Adel, 1994).
Another service on cyberspace that has contributed to the perversion of people’s behaviors and moralities is the issue of cybersex. Psychologists argue that the personality of a person is a reflection of what is in his mind. The goodness or badness of a person can be determined by the way he argues his ideas and relates to others. The input channels of the mind’s content are mainly the eyes and the ears. When somebody has logged on to a cyber sex website, the kind of stuff that he obtains is likely to alter his or her personal behavior. One is likely to feel like doing sex when he watches the way the sex lady or sex man graphic responds when he clicks. A click or modification of the lady’s or the man’s color, appearance can lead a person to imagine doing sex with a person of that kind in reality. His or her mind can lead him or her to finding a real person with similar traits as the cyber graphic to do sex with so that he or she may experience the sensations that the cyber lady or guy appeared to feel. This is a direct influence on the way a person behaves and also his or her personality when he or she is expressing to the real partner. There have been crazy speculations on the issue of cybersex. Every command to your computer you make as a movement of your physical body is directly translated onto the cyber partner as a touch or to a sex arousal move or the real act of doing sex. The way the cyber partner reacts to those mouse simple clicks leaves the real person as if he was doing actual caressing and sex. On one side, if this act brings any satisfaction at all, can lead some people to sex abstinence behavior. This can be a vital tool for fighting the current world threat of HIV and AIDS. But the truth is that most people after watching and feeling sexual aroused end up doing the actual act. The cybersex lady can alter her skin to feel the way she may like. When she programs to be in fur, she looks to be in fur to the observer. There are endless possibilities in a sexual designer virtual reality cyber world. And is there a possibility of things like a virtual rape or things like virtual murder or virtual mudding? It is crazy to imagine such things but maybe these are possibilities in the future. It would be of great impact on people’s personalities because if someone has annoyed you very much you may decide to murder him or rape her in the virtual world. On learning what you did to her or him virtually, she or he may take the necessary step of apologizing for the mistakes or just avoid this potential enemy or murderer or rapist in the actual world (Ward &Rogerson, 1996).
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Another deterioration of the world society’s morals is through the current cyber-dating. What is actually happening is that a close friend is introducing you to a dating club through the Internet. But he or she is not in a position to decide the kind of a friend you will be assigned ( Terrel and Petra, 1998). Many people in relationships and marriage have changed their behavior through this online interaction. Married men and women have hooked other partners secretly on the Internet and have gone to a higher step of meeting physically and have made love to one another. This behavior can not be tolerated and divorces have resulted when their legal partners learn about these affairs. What started as a mild invitation to a dating club by a close friend has led to broken families forever because of the influence of cyberspace on an individual’s behavior (Simon, 1995).
It is possible to shop for pornographic artworks online. A certain culture for example the western permits the exchange of these materials on the Internet for adults. But the net is available for everybody from anywhere. Then a consumer can access the material in a, for example, African country where such material is forbidden. There is an acute conflict of cultures based on this point and the moral teachings of a given culture are being violated or undermined by the other culture (James 2002). The morality of the modern writing and publication society is violated when a person used another person’s published or unpublished work without giving the necessary credits. This is technically called plagiarism (Hoven, 1996). This act of violation has been perpetuated mainly when these materials were published on the Internet. It is on the increase in societies where this is not serious and no strict policies on the issue, for example in Africa. Were it not for the Internet, most plagiarists today would not have the access to the materials which they have plagiarised. Therefore, it is the cyber technology that has fuelled this bad behavior of ‘stealing’ another person’s ideas without permission (Guynes, 1996).
Conformity to morals
Everything that has demerits also has got its merits. It can be argued that the Internet is a truth serum. As mentioned earlier in this paper, millions of people are watching what you place on the net every minute. It is now possible to challenge a faulty fact on the net before it has had a wrong influence on people (Wolbert 2001). A lie told on the net is now easily recovered and the truth said. In summary, any violation of the moralities associated with the cyber is in no time brought to light and passed to people through the web circuits just at the speed at which they had reached the global community. The net is the correcting center for ideas from persons of bad intentions. This has contributed to ensuring the moral values of the other cyber users are not corrupted and the commends from the light perspectives can have a corrective effect on the behavior of the ill-intended people who had posted them (Schuster 2000).
Wise use of cyberspace can boost the morality, behavior, and personality of a person greatly. The social morals of a given community can be transmitted to members of that community wherever. For example, if a Masai from Kenya has gotten a masters scholarship and he is studying from America, and an issue comes up and he does not know the stance of his community with regard to this issue, he can refer to from the Internet so that he may act within his cultural dictates. This way, the cyber has strengthened his morality (Robin 1996).
Again, most people have changed their ill behaviors after listening to Internet counseling sessions. It has also been possible to obtain other key people’s opinions concerning sensitive issues like relationships and criminology (Turkle, 1999). This has positively contributed to people’s change in behavior and the development of their personalities. From a Christian point of view, most people have got saved and turned away from their sinful ways by reading literature posted on the Internet and also by watching. The concept of online education has also contributed to the expansion of people’s minds and acquisition of knowledge on acts that are globally moral and immoral and thus avoiding the bad ones as they come. People have developed their personalities based on the information wealth they have acquired (Howard, 2001).
It is highly recommended that a mechanism be put in place to control the increased rate of obscenity on the Internet. There should be strict laws and policies that will check on the content posted on the Internet for the global community consumption.
Cyberspace has both merits and demerits. Through violation of ethics, people have been lured to immorality. Most have impersonated themselves in cyber meetings. Plagiarism is on the increase, especially where laws are not strict. The positive side of cyberspace has led to immoral people being turned into moral and responsible. People have learned how to live well through free information online. Internet counselors have succeeded to some extent. The demerits in relation to influencing on personal behavior and morality of the person posting and the consumers of the information appear to outweigh the merits. Proper laws should be put in place to check cyberspace content. Probably very soon, a solution will be reached since the Americans republican senator is planning to introduce such a bill. If the negatives are reduced and the benefits promoted, the cyber world could be where everyone would like to be, virtually although.
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