Ethics and the Internet

I’ve been pondering ethics today. Ethics and truth, to be precise. There’s a bit in the Bible I rather like, which says ‘let your yes be yes, and your no be no’ – it’s in a bit where Jesus is talking about oaths – or ‘swearing by something.’

I like it, because it is about ultimate integrity and honesty. In the ideal world someone’s word would be completely trustworthy, and there would be no misinformation, complete understanding and no misinterpretation.

Sounds great.

Sometimes I engage in discussions on Facebook about things that I feel passionately about. Today I did so, and had possibly the most bizarre discussion I’ve ever participated in. It ended up with one of the other participants suggesting that I needed to be exorcised. Not usually how I finish a discussion.

It led me to ponder on the internet and the wonderful place that it can be, as well as the dangerous place it can be, when attempting to source reliable information.

In my part-time job as a physio, I often have to explain to people that their self diagnosis, aided by ‘Dr Google’ is wrong, and then I have to explain why. I’m also having to spend more and more time explaining that the weird treatment they think they’d like isn’t appropriate, and why the explanation that they’ve read is anatomically and physically impossible.

There’s a fine line between plausible sounding information and reality. The biggest difficulty in explaining stuff is the limitations placed on people by a science deficient education. Basic chemistry and biology seem to have passed many people by. It’s a problem, and makes them an easy target for expensive yet ineffective treatments for improbable injuries or illnesses.

On the internet, anyone can say anything, without any need to back it up with evidence. That’s when yeses and nos can mean anything, and the vulnerable preyed upon. Add to that, the preponderance of trolls who spam threads and abuse people they don’t agree with.

It’s not an ideal world, but we can choose to communicate with integrity and and honesty. We can choose to source our information carefully, and look for the evidence and we can choose politeness over snarky trolling.

I think I’ll keep crusading, occasionally embarrassing our kids as I do it, but hopefully working on making sure my yeses and nos are clearly spoken.

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3 thoughts on “Ethics and the Internet

  1. Ethics on the Internet? That’ll be the day. Sometimes it feels like there’s more rude people online then it is in real life.

    Do you mind me asking what a physio is??

    P.s. I nominated you for ‘Most Inspiring Blogger’ (you blog about interesting subjects…like this one)

  2. Thanks Desiree!

    A physio (I live in Australia) is a physiotherapist. In some countries we’re called physical therapists, but here in Australia we often shorten it to physio. If you’re interested, you can find out more about what we do at http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au/APAWCM/Physio_and_You/physio/APAWCM/Physio_and_You/physio.aspx?hkey=25ad06f0-e004-47e5-b894-e0ede69e0fff

    I work in private practice, so I assess, diagnose and treat primarily musculoskeletal injuries, along with some specific womens’ health issues. We often see people after surgery to assist them in their rehabilitation.

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