The topic of this essay is whether the Internet would inhibit or serve to aid in ones moral development.
This essay contends that the internet, as a whole, only would serve to inhibit moral development in the
coming generations. As the internet is a fairly new invention, there has not traditionally been any major
contemporary research done on this topic since the potential sample size is relatively small. However, in
the past few years, internet usage has exploded and so has research on this topic. This essay will examine
the first generation which grew up with the internet, the Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000), and
how their moral development can be affected by the internet. This essay will discuss four major factors
which influence online behavior and how can they affect an individual’s moral development outside the
virtual world. These four factors are lack of affective response and detachment from seeing the harm
caused by disruption, less possibility of discovery of criminal acts and consequently less enforcement of
the law, the possibility of having a completely different kind of social contract in the virtual world, and,
finally, reactions to perceived social and bureaucratic injustices. At the end of the essay, an example will
illustrate what happens when people get carried away in their cyber ego and persona which can result in
tragedy for everyone involved.
The first factor which influences morality to a tangible extent is the lack of affective response and the
distance from the disruption caused. Since people cannot directly see or perceive the negative reaction
their wrongdoing has caused, it reduces the natural feelings of compassion that people feel for each other.
Evolutionary scientists’ claim that the empathy people feel for their victims is most when they can see the
repercussions of their actions immediately or at least almost immediately. Since the internet vastly
increases the distance between sentient beings, their feelings of compassion towards others reduces
accordingly (Bandura, 1991). Also, damage done by people through technology may not be immediately
apparent to the victims and, as it is done only electronically, the wrongdoer cannot experience the harm
caused to the victim either visually or through auditory cues. This further helps in diminishing the
feelings of empathy and feelings of reciprocity among people and causes the transgressor to dehumanize
their victim. The affect of dehumanizing other human beings can easily spill over into the real world,
even if it is restrained through biologically evolutionary responses, such as empathy and feelings of future
reciprocity (Forrester et al, 1998). For example, if a man goes towards a random woman and hits her in
public, he will most likely be restrained by his feelings of empathy for a fellow human being and also
social disapproval of violence, especially towards females. This is due to the fact that actions are almost
universally disapproved of and despised. They also facilitate in lowering the social standing of a person.