Ethics: Your Online Persona

By: Iyanna Soltero

Most of us live by our own set of morals and ethics, and most of us can point out what’s right and what’s wrong in life, but social media can be a true test to that. Think of a social network as a community. In a community your main purpose is to build relationships and make connections. There are three main principles you want in your community: authenticity, transparency, and communication. Proper behavior means being an honest, trustworthy person who people want to get to know.

Social media is becoming more and more essential in business as it is in personal life. More companies are using social media as a tool to drive more traffic to their businesses, but there’s a right way to do it, and there’s a wrong way to do it.

Our online persona should reflect our real-life values and ethics, with the idea in mind that our online social network is our community. If you treat people properly, they’ll want to treat you properly, too. Sitting in front of a computer screen, and typing rather than speaking, shouldn’t change your application of morals and ethics any different than you do in face-to-face interactions.

We want our community to be made of people who are honest about who they are and what they stand for. Transparency is just as essentially important online as it is in real-life. Even when it’s difficult, we want to know the truth. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey learned that using an online alter ego risks ruining reputations and bonds with customers, when it was revealed that he made false accusations online about competitor, Wild Oats in 2007.

Managing social media using the code of ethics can be vital for success. Remember that what you put out, is what you’ll receive back. Create your community with the three main principles, and remember what the purpose of using social media is in your business. Don’t stray away from your morals and ethics online any differently than you do in real-life: be ethical!

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This Article Has 4 Comments
  1. Robert Emmett says:

    Iyanna,

    I completely agree with you when it comes to the importance of establishing and exhibiting personal and professional ethics both in-person and on social media. Our online activity and social media persona’s are still a direct representation of ourselves and our organization. How we interact and operate online as business professionals should reflect the ethical standards that we set as individuals in the business setting. I thought the three main principles you listed within a community were spot on. Authenticity, transparency, and communication are absolute essentials within a personal and professional community and should be no different when it comes to an individual’s social network.

  2. Brian Gaudette says:

    From a philosophical standpoint, I don’t think that most people can point to what is right and wrong in life, good or evil. In our society today, moral relativism and subjective truth reign supreme. Being authentic and honest is not the norm for our current American community where the ends often justify the means. I think I understand that you’re saying is that one’s online personal should be consistent with their “real life” persona, but I don’t think for most people that includes being honest or authentic. According to an article in Psychology Today, 40% of Americans admit to lying on at least a daily basis. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201111/how-often-do-people-lie-in-their-daily-livesyourWords). And that’s just those who admit it.

    Even just the edited and selective nature of Facebook and Instagram personas alone create false narratives. Most people (to include myself) tend to post the “highlight reel” of their lives. People don’t tend to post about the behind the scenes look at the tremendous suffering, fear, and insecurity that comes from a life lived in the face of what is an apparent nonsensical existence created by a seemingly chaotic and meaningless universe.

    To your point, I do think that a strategy of authenticity and transparency , blemishes and all, In a landscape of narratives that are filtered, photo shopped, and “highlight reel” curated, would certainly attract listeners and break through the overly perfected ideological noise. Ironically, I think we all are attracted to authenticity and transparency but very few amongst us have the courage and bravery to truly be those things in practice.

  3. Colton Schang says:

    I tend to agree with Brian on this one. I think that in an ideal world, people would be true to themselves and be authentic online as they would in person, but that’s just not realistic. I think the fabric of our society is changing because of the platform social media gives to anyone. Anyone can have a voice and anyone can hide behind a keyboard. I find it interesting to see the behavior shifts of people who post politically on Facebook than how those people actually act in real life. There seems to be a trap of feeling like you are joining the conversation and correcting people’s false ideas, but in all reality the feeling of “proving someone right” with your opinion never seems to work. It only creates more animosity and divisiveness. At least that’s the way I feel when I read those comments, I don’t even participate.

    Ultimately, agree with you on the point you make about trying to be the same person online as you are off. I think there needs to be more education for how to act online. I know that sounds a little crazy, but people need to be taught online etiquette just as much as they do on how to act in a public setting. If more people are taught, more people will understand how to act ethically online.

  4. Kaisa Lightfoot says:

    Great points! I think it’s tricky! On one hand I’d love it if folks remained themselves online… but who is themselves always while in-person anyway?

    How we act at work may be different than how we conduct ourselves in class or with friends or family. I see it as just another environment where we act a version of ourselves. I think it must remain authentic to us, sure, but it may appear different than how we present ourselves in other environments.

    General community standards for ethics make sense to me in terms of what influencers and entities can ethically do when portraying themselves online, but the line for average individual social media users is much more grey.

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