(Ethical Principles in the Use of Social Media – Part 3)
Fr. Andiy Navidad Egargo, Ph.D.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind…and a year of favor from the Lord” (Lk 4.18-19).
The gospel promises liberation and salvation for people. Before anything else, however, the gospel has to be proclaimed. The church, recognizing both its charismatic and ministerial characteristics, never ceases to look into new possible means of gospel proclamation. It makes use of the product of man’s creativity and intelligence. It is in this spirit that the church employs the means of social communication (social media, especially) in the process of evangelization.
In a predominantly commercially-oriented media environment in the Philippine context, there is an obvious and urgent need for an alternative media which is close to the heart of the people and which seeks to educate rather than manipulate. There is a need for a media which is concerned about promoting total human development rather than promoting a consumerist-materialist culture. It is about time to rekindle the light in a society slowly darkened by unreasonable modernism and secularism and made callous by narcissistic tendencies.
Social media could be an instrument in building a free, just, and peaceful community of persons. It could be used to promote universal values of human dignity, truth, and non-violence as transcendent moral principles. In other words, there is only one crucial purpose for a social media apostolate: the greater glory of God and the good of humanity.
As God-centered and human-oriented, a social media user must adhere and bind himself to the following ethical principles:
1. Evangelization, through social media, is not aimed towards proselytization. Rather, it aims towards allowing people to have an increased awareness of their dignity as persons, loved and cared for by the Creator. In this sense, social media becomes an instrument of an act of love where the priority is service for the oppressed and providing public voice for the voiceless. The contents are directed to all men of goodwill.
2. For people to intelligently participate in the affairs of society, they need to be truthfully informed. The people has the right to information in a balanced manner, without any stain of manipulation of facts. They have the right to know about the society they live in and the realities that have a bearing on their growth as persons. Moreover, the real mark of true democracy is people’s participation. A social media user should know how to expose truth.
3. It is said that communication is more than just information. Social media should not only bring true and objective information to the people; it should help people become formed with respect to the universal values of human dignity, truth, and non-violence. A social media user, therefore, has the responsibility of integrity, honesty, and objectivity at all times in order to be capable of informing and forming. He does not seek to serve himself, any individual or any institution except that which is at the side of truth and justice.
4. A social media user shall never allow itself to be used as an instrument of hate, discrimination and division but an instrument of service, love and communion. He shall never lend himself to actions that may result to dehumanization or unjust destruction of reputation.
5. A social media user shall respect the opinion of others. It is fairly just to express contrary and contradictory opinion. As he/she expresses his/her opinion, he/she is morally-bound to be polite and respectful as manifested in his choice of words. Social media is not only a venue for self-expression; it is also an opportunity to show our acquired personal decency and discipline.