Bandwagon Morality: A Social Media Epidemic | The Reporter

The pervasive influence of social media has reshaped the priorities of today’s youth, as face-to-face interactions are rapidly replaced by digital exchanges through texting, posting, messaging, and commenting. What is concerning is the rising trend of individuals using social media to ironically avoid real social interactions.

Nowadays, many young people struggle to maintain eye contact and engage in live conversations because they feel more comfortable communicating through social media, where they can hide behind a digital persona and gain popularity.

Not long ago, forming new relationships, joining groups, or interacting with others required phone calls or leaving one’s home. However, today, many individuals consider their Facebook friends as their social circle, and texting and messaging have become the dominant forms of communication. Ironically once again, social media has contributed to the decline of social skills. Despite this decline, the need to belong remains, leading people, particularly young people, to latch onto moral bandwagons in order to feel connected to others.

Discussions about the impact of social media on our mental health and its role in creating divisive religious, racial, and political climates have been endless. While these divisions based on self-identification have always existed, they are now more heated than ever, thanks to the ease with which individuals can use social media to spread self-serving “us against them” narratives.

An under-discussed consequence of a society driven by social media is its subtle, and often overt, promotion of “moralizing.” Not surprisingly, most social media flame wars occur between people who usually remain anonymous, arguing over who is morally superior. By moralizing, I mean passing judgment on others based on their perceived good or bad behavior. As a result of widespread moralization, I have come to a realization I would not have considered ten years ago: the world needs far less moralizing… much, much less.

Moralizing is problematic because nearly everyone, including myself, is largely clueless and ignorant about almost every topic. We rarely have a comprehensive understanding of both sides of an issue or story. Content designed to provoke emotions, coupled with the ease that social media provides to judge and condemn people we don’t even know, often leads to the creation of self-righteous zealots hiding behind anonymous accounts.

If there is one lesson we should have learned from the pandemic, it is that everyone, at some point, is wrong about something. It doesn’t matter what our politics are, where we live, our gender, or our personal beliefs or tolerance level—each of us has been wrong about something in the last three and a half years, in some cases, horribly wrong. It’s a safe bet to assume that both you and I will be wrong about something again, which means that most of what we see or read on social media contains, to some extent, “stupidity” driven by self-serving motives behind the creation of that happy.

Theoretically, the pandemic should have humbled people and made them more accepting of others’ viewpoints. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened.

The world has become more polarized and angry, with disinformation (or rather, propaganda) spreading rapidly, leading to new “moral panics” almost every day.

Moralizing has reached a point where we now live in a world where being negatively labeled and publicly shamed is common if you hold a viewpoint, opinion, or belief that goes against the self-appointed moral majority.

For instance, if you express opposition to Israel’s continuation of the Israel-Gaza war, simply stating that enough is enough and that Israel has made its point, you challenge the current moral panic. Instead of assuming that you oppose the escalation of civilian deaths, the moral majority assumes that you are pro-Palestinian, which, according to them, is equivalent to supporting Hamas.

Speaking your truth on social media platforms without anonymity requires a great deal of courage. Therefore, I greatly admire those who do so and withstand the inevitable attacks they will face. Their courage brings to mind the words of George Orwell, who said, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

As a result of moral grandstanding by bandwagoners seeking approval from their digital tribes, social media has become a battleground for determining whose position is supposedly the most pure.

Instead, it could be a digital town hall where civilized discussions on current issues take place, where differing opinions can agree to disagree, and where the need to be right is not even a consideration. To achieve this utopian vision, social media users, especially those considered “influencers,” should adopt what I believe should be the number one rule of the internet: Instead of trying to prove others wrong, try to see in what sense they may be right .

Until all social media users embrace this rule, I hope more and more people will realize the need to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate our Twitter-driven world. They must also learn to avoid jumping to conclusions and reserving moral judgment. These skills are not only beneficial for the digital world but also for the real world.

Nick Kossovan is the Social Media Director (Executive Board Member) of the Customer Service Professionals Network. He can be reached at [email protected].

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