Is it still possible to tread the moral path through a cesspool of Likes and Shares?

Photo 04-07-2014 00 13 19

I saw a video the other day of a bunch of buffoons that drove a stock Volkswagen onto a live race circuit whilst there was an actual race going on. This despite the protestations of a girl on board, the lone voice of sanity it would appear, and the actual owner of said vehicle. The driver persisted in his endeavour to break all kinds of tenets of common sense, endangering not only his and his passenger’s lives, but also those of the racers out on the track going flat-out under race conditions.

Quite aside from the ‘how the hell did the circuit (that shall remain nameless, but it was Brand Hatch in the UK) actually allow this to happen, is a bigger, more pertinent question – why did this happen? I’ll let you into a clue. How I know that events unfolded exactly as I have described is because the driver’s moronic mate filmed the whole thing from the back seat.

In America a few weeks back, a hardened police officer broke down and wept on national TV whilst recounting the horror of watching people burn in a car accident that he encountered whilst off-duty. He was mortified not just because he was helpless to the point that he prayed for them to die quickly so their suffering would stop; but because whilst he struggled to do something, anything, to try to help them, the rest of the gathered crowd stood by and recorded the unfolding events with their smart phones. He even had to move people away as they were getting too close to the burning wreck in order to try and get the flaming Vine of the century.

And possibly the most difficult to fathom true story of our tragic modern times – also from America – is of a mother who apparently deliberately poisoned her small child just so that she’d be able to generate increased traffic and engagement on her social media channels and personal blog. The child died.

Tragedy is rife across the globe and these stories are stupid and sickening though not uncommon. But as a media professional active in trying to generate online audiences across multiple platforms – it’s more than a little troubling and perplexing.

I am constantly working at generating content that I hope will hook a fickle and transient crowd, surfacing the seductive waves of the virtual infotainment superhighway. Effectively I’m competing with the oafs in the VW, the macabre crash voyeurs and the filicidal maniac. I’m competing for clicks, for engagement, for ‘likes’ and for ‘shares’. That slightly disgusts me, I have to confess.

It’s probably very naive to say that none of these events would have happened if social media or the internet didn’t exist, but what if it were true. What if blogging was the cause of death of that innocent young life?

Employing trusted personal morals and ethics should be a sufficient a navigate through the growing cesspool of trashy web content, but as professionals that do what we do, are we complicit in this scenario of ever increasing stakes whilst chasing for that an ephemeral traffic peak that we all lust after?

I really don’t know. New media is still such a wild and young thing, unfettered in its reach and ambition, that clear answers simply do not yet appear to be focussing themselves. What do you think? I’d love to know.

Oh and by the way, don’t forget to like and share and… oh bugger.

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