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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Social Media Ethics, Spam, and Being Christian

SPAMMING behaviour is a thing we all encounter using social media, and at least it’s only annoying, not like the internet violence that hackers perpetrate. But spamming is about as uncool as it gets, especially when we consider that it’s unwanted and the violation of ethical boundaries. Nobody wants their time and other resources wasted. And when spamming behaviour comes between friends it can truly put the friendship on notice. Who we have encountered is not who we thought they were.
Recently something occurred to me that left me feeling betrayed. I was asked three weeks beforehand if I’d do a ‘guest post’ on a blog that I knew of. I had written pieces for this person previously. I had no problem sending this person a link to a prayer I wrote some time ago. I thought nothing more of it.
Then I discovered that this person had sent the ‘guest post’ link to many on my Facebook friends list, which is spamming behaviour, unethical, deplorable, and even embarrassing to me — as it potentially brings my character into question when I have nothing to do with it. And to think that the motive to get dozens to post a link on such a special and significant and sad day as Mother’s Day was especially problematic for some.
The ‘guest post’ was written appropriately, according to the right copyright conventions, and even the message that was sent to all these people I know read okay. But people were getting not personal communication. They were being asked to do something, which breeds undue and unwarranted pressure.
It’s not how we are to use social media. We are not supposed to engineer work-arounds to get more traffic to our websites, even if under the guise, “this could help someone.” We are not supposed to use people.
Indeed, this is one of the reasons social media works in the main. The bigger companies like Google, YouTube, etc, have smart people working on how to make the front-end of their business — what we use and see — as ethical and fair for all as possible. We are all benefactors. But when we seek to bend the rules to suit ourselves we end up upsetting people.
When it comes to our use of social media — especially those of us who use it to pedal something — we need to ensure we are doing good by people.
Nobody appreciates being spammed, and it is much, much worse when it happens between, or involves, friends.
As Christians we have a supreme ethical marker to attain to. And though we all make mistakes — and often unintentionally — we do well to think of the impact of our behaviour on others before we say or do anything.
Spam is unwanted and unwelcome material, and worse when it requires a decision of us. Spamming techniques like using private messaging as ‘mail merge’ are not a reflection of good character.
Spam is not the sort of thing that represents Christian witness of loving others.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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