Well-known feminist and writer Clementine Ford, has spoken out about women’s rights and in doing so, illuminated a very dark side to our culture.
After a spate of hacking and data theft, the revealing photos of hundreds of Australian women were shared online. Ms Ford responded to a related segment on Sunrise suggesting that women should refrain from taking nude photographs, by posting a heated rebuttal about ‘victim blaming’ on their Facebook page. The trolling and harassment that followed prompted her to expose some of the attitudes that women found themselves up against when speaking out about their rights.
In the wake of Ms Ford’s publication of the offensive online harassment, many of us are still wading through a whitewash of questions around power and equality, the relationships that exist between men and women and the fine line that exists between our ideas around what is ‘public’ and what is or should be considered ‘private’ information.
Perhaps the more pertinent question here is tied up in what we consider to be our core values as a society.
To some, the world has changed dramatically. It seems that all of a sudden, everybody has access to the Internet, anyone can be ‘famous’ and anybody can ‘publish’ anything, anytime, anywhere. But does that mean that we should all just publish our opinions on the social media sounding board with complete disregard for the consequences? Of course not, especially if doing so serves only to corrode the moral fibre of a community.
And what of those who have grown up basking in the freedom of expression that social media can provide? For a vast amount of people, the anonymity associated with voicing an opinion online as opposed to real life, creates the illusion of a consequence-free zone. Could this have been a contributing factor in the spate of misogynistic abuse Ms Ford received from Australian men? Perhaps.
Alarmingly, among those ‘men’ were the three Adelaide High School students who thought they had the right to send abusive messages and joke about violence against women. Their behaviour not only highlights the confusion around what it means to be ‘masculine’ in contemporary Western Society, but the need for a revival of values education, namely, the core values of dignity, mutual respect and tolerance. More than ever, we need to take a step back and look at the importance of teaching basic social etiquette and the role it plays, not only in shaping behaviour but our collective moral compass.
The right to be free only serves everyone’s best interests when coupled with the awareness of the great responsibility that comes along with that freedom. Let’s take responsibility, stop abusing one another online and educate our young people about the value of being socially responsible. Rather than allowing them to use social media as a soap box from which to vent ignorant hatred, let’s empower teachers and parents to facilitate authentic offline opportunities for young men to develop the self respect and strength of character they need to grow into the kind of gentlemen our society is clearly crying out for.
A Guide to Online Etiquette
- Always be respectful.
- Do not use social media to bully, abuse, harass or intimidate another person. Use others’ views as an opportunity to reach a new level of understanding rather than an opportunity to criticise.
- When voicing any opinion online, be mindful of the way you may be perceived.
- Avoid using Facebook as a place to voice your opinions on issues that may be deemed as sensitive or controversial. This can cause unnecessary conflict and tension.
- Never express anything online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in real life.
- Be aware that what you share online stays there and may be used by others without your permission.
- Do not post photos of yourself or others in compromising or questionable situations that could be deemed dangerous or illegal.
- Ensure all of your privacy settings are turned on.
- Always keep your personal and professional profiles separate.
- Clean up your personal profile by erasing any material that casts you in a negative light.
About the Author
Michaela Launerts has a background in secondary education and is the Director of Etiquette & Co. the contemporary solution to Character Education in Australia. Etiquette& Co. specialize in etiquette training and refinement courses aimed at building confidence in young people through a specific skill set that prepares them for the global stage. The courses develop social, interpersonal and communication skills based upon the core principles of confidence, character and conduct. Their team of professional consultants is passionate, dedicated to motivating young people to be capable and successful individuals.
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