I’m not going to apologize for making you feel like a schmuck. You know who you are. I have morals and standards and I, personally, don’t look up certain information on the net, even though I could, because it’s just not my damn business.
At the same time, I’m not trying to make you feel bad. My morals are not, never have been and will never be forced on you as the way you must work. This is just the way I can sleep happily at night, and not stay up feeling like I’m a little boy caught peeking up girls dresses. If you feel that what you’re doing is okay, then fine. I don’t actually judge you or think any more or less of you for that in general. I expect people to have different ethical marks than I have, and unless our viewpoints are in direct conflict, we’re cool.
So here we go about morals, ethics, and perceptions.
Everyone’s got opinions and everyone’s lived a different life, so at the end of the day, we all have different points of view. From our experiences and our parents, we form our own brand of morals, which reflect our own, unique, perspective to the world. Mankind does not, I feel, have an innate sense of right and wrong. Everything we have that defines correctness in the world is a learned behavior, brought to us from our formative years. So yeah, you can blame your parents on this one, folks.
Because morals are learned, we apply them as we apply all other learned behaviors. A new situation arises, we apply what’s worked before, when it fails, we adapt. This is part of what makes us human and not animals. My cat still thinks that, because when she stayed at Taffy’s the bedroom door had a mirror on it, therefore every door with a mirror leads to Taffy’s house. She cries at the door until I open it and looks decidedly confused and upset when it’s just the closet, or bathroom. Humans can reason and deduce and debug. We don’t keep trying the same thing over and over again, we change our approach.
Thus we accept that our own personal morals are an ever mutating, growing and changing world. In short, our entire lives are an experiment in applied ethics (ethics being that which addresses questions about morals), and the results are only known to people who live after you’re dead and have to deal with the fallouts (or benefits) of your actions. That’s a little demoralizing (pun intended), but the effects of choices you make based on your morals, their success and failure, cannot be measured by yourself since they are comparative to the rest of the world. Since the definitions of success and failure are in the eye of the beholder, your inherent ‘grade’ is ever changing.
No one will ever be able to definitively say ‘Her morals were sound and she was a good person,’ because everything that is being measured there is in a constant state of flux. Reality is perception. Perceptions change.
This begs the question “Why bother?”
Well morality isn’t a zero-sum game. Trying to quantify the results of your morals into a won/lost ratio is just asking for trouble. Morality is what helps you decide that stealing is bad and helping people is good. Morality isn’t what nags at you when you don’t give up your seat to the old man or the pregnant lady, that’s your conscience. That said, morality is what tells you that your life is good, and failure to follow your moral code ends in discomfort, which has your conscience nagging at you, so really it’s all tied up together.
Simply put: Morality is complex. There’s not a damn thing simple about it. We all have morals, and attempting to live without a moral code is futile, since you have to base your decisions on something. Even Two-Face, the Batman villain, who flips a coin to make his decisions, has his own moral code. Because of his warring personalities, Two-Face has to use the coin to make his final choices, but he still cannot go against both halves of himself.
As you go through your life, your moral code adapts to your world. Maybe you thought it was okay to steal your best friend’s pens in high school, making her wonder if she was going insane, but now that you’re 30 and work in an office, it’s not so cool anymore. It’s the little things like that which define our maturity. You learn what’s right and you adapt.
Enter the Internet. This is where everything gets a little funky.
The Internet has few rules, and most of them depend on what site you visit. My personal rule is ‘Don’t be a dick.’ and everything else tags along with it. Unlike most ‘real world’ situations, people don’t seem to apply the same level of thought to their Internet moral code. Instead of taking what they do in the rest of their lives, applying it to the Internet, and adapting as needs be, they seem to take great pleasure in creating an entirely new moral code, one that may seem at odds with the ones they use in the rest of their lives.
Lying suddenly becomes de rigueur, misleading people and telling yourself it’s ‘funny’ is a new standard. Implying you know more than you do, or have secret contacts is the norm. You may use your computer savvy to find out things about people that you have no business knowing, and then exploit that information for entertainment. Things that you would never consider in your ‘real life’ suddenly become okay, because it’s on the Internet.
I should stress that if you abide by the same rules on and off line, like Googling to find out if an actor broke up with their wife and, at the same time, reading the newspaper for the same information, then I’m not talking about you. If you are consistent in your actions, then you have managed to retain your morals and ethics and you’re not being a hypocrite. It’s those other people who intentionally decide to screw with people just for laughs and feel it’s okay because it’s online? They need to stop.
My beef, if you can’t tell, is with people who think that it’s okay to be an asshole because it’s on the Internet. Like there’s this shield that protects their precious soul just because it’s online. These are the same people who find it morally reprehensible to call people names, but it’s perfectly okay for them to do it online. I just don’t understand them. How they can go to sleep at night with actions that are against their moral grain is beyond me.
The only answer I have is that the asshole version of themselves, the one who lies, cheats, steals and intimidates, is their true self. The rest is just the veneer they put on to mesh with the ‘real world’ out there.
The next time someone busts your balls online, and you de-friend them or block them to get away, and they bitch that you’d never act that way in real life, tell them the truth: Yes, you would. Because you’ve just now seen their ‘real’ self, and it’s horrifying. And don’t apologize for being consistent either, folks. You’d change the locks on your house if some creep of a friend had a key and was suddenly loosing their mind on you. It’s okay to step away from people who prove that their morals are ones you can’t deal with.
So I’m not apologizing for having my moral viewpoint and standing by it. I expect you to be consistent too, to stand by your code of ethics, and be reliable. If my actions make you feel guilty well, that’s on you and maybe you need to take a step back and rethink things. Certainly sometimes people make me feel guilty about that stuff, and I do exactly what I would do, online or off-line. I review my moral code, I adjust it, and I learn more about myself.
Because that’s what makes me human.