Social media is becoming increasingly ingrained in everybody’s lives. Whenever something becomes this important, data specialists become interested in it, because it creates behavioral information that can be used for marketing, politics, and more. However, this raises the important issue of ethics, something that Matt Knouff is currently working on. Essentially, a key question now is whether the use of social media has changed the way people view ethics in the workplace. Add to this the fact that employers now have social media policies in place, it becomes increasingly important to think about how these two issues correlate.
Where We Are Today
Matt Kouff has found, through research, that people who are active on social media are also more likely to be tolerant of behaviors that could be classed unethical in “real” life. However, this doesn’t mean they have few morals. Rather, it means that they are more open to think about the “gray areas” of ethics. Essentially, a social media user is far more likely to be exposed to wrongdoings, even if they do not participate in it, which in turn means that they have to think about their own behaviors.
Influence Factors and Ethics
To be able to truly understand the link between ethics and social media, it is important to first define what ethics are. Unfortunately, this is proving to be quite difficult, because ethics are influenced by so many different factors. At its core, ethics is about “doing the right thing”, but what that right thing is varies greatly. What we learn as children, how we are influence by others, how employers treat people, and so on, are all factors that influence our ethics.
The Link Between Social Media and Ethics
It seems that, while social media users are more likely to be exposed to unethical behaviors, they are not likely to be unethical themselves. In fact, some psychological research that Knouff has used demonstrated that social media users are likely to be more thoughtful in interpersonal relationships, rather than less.
A greater issue is the one employers are facing, namely that they struggle to stop employees from accessing social media when they should be working. However, most would question whether absconding from work or being purposefully unproductive could ever be classed as being unethical. Rather, it is being opportunistic and a tad lazy.
Can Ethics on Social Media Be Managed?
Businesses cannot escape from social media anymore. As a result, they are putting policies in place to make sure people behave in an ethical manner and one that doesn’t make them waste valuable productive time. However, according to Kouff, such a policy would only require two words: “Be professional.” Those two words should cover everything, including that people should speak with a professional tone, represent themselves and their organization in a professional manner, and behave professionally overall, which means not wasting time on personal issues while being at work. Whether or not that has anything to do with ethics is a whole other debate.