SNSs Built Around Online Engagements

To be sure, acquiring such capacities and habits is not easy, especially in the beginning when our existing motivations and dispositions often pull us in the opposite direction. One therefore requires, in addition to our existing motives, situational opportunities that exert some pressure upon us to move in the virtuous direction, and the social strains and burdens of face-to-face conversation have historically, and across cultures, often been rich sources of such pressure.

Whatever their many benefits and advantages may be (especially from a utilitarian perspective), the general question is then: how far do our engagements with one another online foster and/or hinder the development of such core virtues as patience and perseverance? Overall, Vallor’s first response is not heartening:

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SNSs Built Around Online Engagements
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For today’s technologies provide us with an ever-widening horizon of escape routes from any interaction that has lost its momentary appeal, and are widely celebrated by users precisely for their capacity to liberate us from the uncomfortable strains and burdens of conventional communication. I can … click away from a friend’s blog, without the price that must be paid for physically turning away from a face-to-face conversation.

This is to say: as SNSs are built around online engagements that are quick, short, convenient, and ephemeral (as Snapchat and Instagram are specifically designed to be), they thereby train communicative habits that do not immediately seem to require the sorts of perseverance and patience characteristic of at least some of our offline encounters, especially our most significant ones. In particular, online communicative environments always offer the possibility of an immediate escape, as mood, desire, and/ or necessity may dictate. This is not necessarily problematic ethically. The ethical concern, rather, is with how far I am likely also to stick with the offline engagements that require virtues such as patience and perseverance – and thereby acquire and learn how to foster those virtues.

To get at this a last way, Vallor emphasizes that in offline venues:

The gaze of the morally significant other, which holds me respectfully in place and solicits my ongoing patience, is a critical element in my moral development; though I might for all that ignore it, it creates an important situational gradient in the virtuous direction.