I have been wondering how the Internet and social media fuel informational chaos and what this is doing to us at a societal level. This made me think about the values being modeled to young people right now. For instance, are young people being told to behave with integrity, and yet witnessing something completely different from those in positions of power or influence?
Values are deeply important in structuring who we are, what we believe, and how we act. Have you ever thought about the values your parent(s) taught you when you were young? What values did they pass on to you? Do you still hold these same values, or have they changed over time? What values are you passing on to your children right now?
I thought about some of the core values my parents taught me and my siblings when we were growing up. They taught us to be:
● Competent – Of excellent ability and skill
● Considerate / Courteous – Caring about and respectful of others
● Cooperative – Working together for a shared purpose or help others willingly
● Contribution – Giving of one’s time or energy to better someone/something/purpose
● Dependable – Capable of being depended on, worthy of trust, reliable
● Encouraging – Giving courage, confidence, or hope to others and oneself
● Empathetic – Understanding of another’s feelings or experience
● Forgiving – Inclined or able to show mercy
● Hard Worker / Helpful – Physically and mentally exerting oneself to high levels for a good cause
● Honorable – Deserving of esteem and respect
● Integrity / Honesty – The honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions
● Knowledge – The result of perception, learning and reasoning
● Love – A sense of deep care, affection, and interest
● Leadership – The status of being in charge
● Trustworthy – Worthy of trust or belief
● Well-Behaved – Someone who behaves in a manner that respects others
● Worthiness – The quality or state of having merit or value
Upon reflection, I realized I have kept many of the values my parents taught me and also added more along the way, based on my life experiences. I believe values can change over time and this reflects the growth and evolution of self.
I have taught my children many of the values I was raised with and more. I wonder what values other parents teach their children and if the core of these are similar to the values I hold. Are these values widely accepted and acknowledged today? Do we agree that these are generally good values to hold?
Further questions arise: With the advancement of technology this century, are these values still upheld or adhered to by companies or individuals in power or influence?
The Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, discussed the Cambridge Analytica data scandal where Cambridge Analytica used data collected from various sources (i.e., Facebook) to create what’s known as “data points” on individual users. With this collected data, Cambridge Analytica was able to target voters with specific messages and information on Brexit and other elections to influence them to vote for a certain candidate or outcome.
Think about that.
But this kind of data manipulation is nothing new. The documentary, Fat Fiction explains that in the 1960s, sugar companies funded research on cardiovascular disease. Their aim was to skew the outcomes of the research and suggest that fat (not sugar) was to blame for heart disease. In later years, researchers questioned these results, arguing that the science was biased. You can read more on this here.
Nowadays, if a company is funding scientific research for a given product, they can (and sometimes do!) manipulate the scientific data to produce a more favourable outcome for themselves and get the product to market. Read more on this phenomenon here and here.
We’ve seen this with the tobacco industry, pharmaceutical industry, and many others. At DrugWatch.com, you can view current lawsuits around various products as this is an ongoing problem with wide-reaching impact. (If you want to know more about how drugs are reviewed in Canada, read more here and learn about drug recalls here.)
How many lawsuits have you heard of where a product was not thoroughly tested? Whether it’s cars or medication. Sometimes companies will also do cost analysis and calculate how much they stand to make on a product versus how much they will lose in lawsuits due to faulty products. This kind of dishonest behaviour is enough to make your stomach turn.
And yet what is stopping these companies from behaving this way? They are often punished with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
Elsewhere, leaders of countries actively lie to their citizens (sometimes they are caught, but many times they are not). How can we hold these people in power accountable?
The very problem of lying and false information has become rampant in recent years.
Countless conspiracy theories are circulating on the Internet – many of which started simply as lies. I think many of these lies are purposefully started by people who find enjoyment in the chaos that ensues. What’s further concerning is that the range of these conspiracies is reaching more and more people – those who normally would not pay attention to or believe such things.
Wouldn’t it be nice to just halt all social media and false information on the Internet? Maybe even have some way to go through and clean up all the fake articles that cause chaos and panic. Of course, that would be nice, but the reality is that all the fake information would be back in no time because the problem is actually much deeper.
If you look at the core of this rampant misinformation, it is the adults of the world who are responsible. Every one of us. What kind of values do we uphold in ourselves and our peers? And what kind of values are we modeling for young people? When we lack a strong connection to our values, we are easily swept up into chaos and lies.
Have you ever witnessed someone do something wrong and no one says anything? Or maybe someone does wrong, and they know it – but they do nothing to correct the matter. We cannot live in a society that claims to have certain values but does not act on them. We must demand more from ourselves and more from people in power – whether it is government officials, company CEOs, or others in positions of authority and influence.
We do not want to live in anarchy where people hold no values or have no accountability. Or do we? Sometimes it seems like no one really cares about these things.
Our values are important, and it is time we start living by them and hold ourselves accountable to them. Our values ground us – they keep us strong in who we are. Our values help us to be resilient and to resist lies and chaos.
Although values are not something that is talked about much these days, I recommend going through the exercises in these links to help you understand what your values are. You might be surprised by what they mean to you.
Here are some additional resources that provide lists of values and their meanings:
I would like us to start thinking: What are our values and how can we live by them?
Edited by Tracy Wai de Boer