How to Uphold Moral Values in an Increasingly Immoral Virtual Sphere?
Our virtual and literal worlds are connected.
The messages we send to our friends have a direct impact on our relationships, the results of our online searches affect our decisions, and for our actions online we are held accountable, whether by friends, family or law enforcement agencies.
The term ‘reality’ in binary opposition to ‘the virtual’ no longer apply: our online lives act as an extension of our physical experiences.
However, the ethical and religious standards we hold to in our literal lives are increasingly hard to uphold in the online sphere.
Following scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, it has become absolutely clear – if it was not so already – that private corporations are gathering and storing miles of our data in order to analyse it and influence our decisions, from what to get your little one for their birthday to which political party you vote for.
Advertising no longer sticks out like the sore thumb of Lord Kitchener, but is sly, sophisticated and built of the minutely growing data you yourself supply to search engines.
The implications of such vast data theft and abuse (and it is theft because you cannot possibly read through terms and conditions that dwarf The Tempest and are written in company-specific jargon) is the reduction of agency.
The sophistication of personally-tuned advertising means that you are no longer in the driving seat of your decision-making.
The fact that 88% of Conservative party advertisements during the UK 2019 General Election were misleading (according to First Draft) suggest harrowing challenges to our capacity to think freely without being bombarded with targeted, distorted advertising.
It would seem that the internet is all haram.
Whilst it may be tempting to cast off the entire internet, this is – for better or for worse – not possible. Nothing short of digging a den in the Rub Al Khali can be done to escape the onslaught of technology.
I will not go into a passionate defence of the manifold benefits of the Internet (which I truly believe in) but would like to dissuade against terms like offline which, when applied to contemporary situations, give the illusion that logging off or turning off your device terminates your session ‘on the web’.
Our lives are so interwoven with the internet, that a luddite rejection or denial is deceptive. That is to say, it is no longer a choice of whether you are online but if you choose to enact agency on how you exist in the virtual sphere, and whether you stay true to your values.
I believe that there are ways to retain the capacity to decide for yourself, and not compromise on your values, by deciding where to invest.
Data is the new currency. Most apps that we use are ‘free’; their heavy cost coming in data accruement which is stored massive data centres stretching on for hundreds of feet, and that each use more energy than a big city.
With no respect for privacy this data is then used to manipulate individuals and communities as corporations see fit for political or financial ends.
The apps and browsers that we choose to use thus bears immense significance: by becoming a user of an app is a vote. As independent retailers say ‘vote with your wallet’; I suggest ‘vote with your data’.
It has never been more valuable.