9.2 Norms and Customs

Indeed, the cases I’ve described weren’t, in the end, only about law. They also had everything to do with the norms, or customs, we should consider as we work, play and collaborate in a digital mediasphere.

In previous chapters we’ve considered how we should react to things we find online, especially derogatory and even hateful speech, and how we should behave ourselves in our speech. I want to give these issues extra emphasis here.

It should go without saying that people shouldn’t use our new media tools for cruel purposes. Given that some will, what kinds of norms can we encourage so that the targets of cruelty can either respond or, better yet, learn to ignore the attacks?

Telling our children to grow thicker skins is, of course, not going to get us very far, and we don’t want to create a generation of purely cynical adults. But social-media training needs to include the digital-age versions of cautions we’ve long suggested to children, such as the admonition not to get into a car with an adult who’s a stranger. Again, trust depends in large part on what we can verify, or what we’ve learned, though our own experience and the advice of others, to trust.

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