Does Integrity on the Internet Really Matter?
The word "integrity" carries the idea of being complete ... sound in all respects. If the integrity of a ship's hull becomes compromised, then the entire ship is put at risk unless the breach can become sealed. The same is true of us as people. If there is a breach in the way that deal with each other or even ourselves, then that hole in our character puts us and those around us at great risk.
Integrity in dealing with others has to do with one's willingness to maintain high ethical and moral standards, and then stick to those standards, even when tempted to do otherwise. These standards include a person's honesty, leadership, willingness to help, and fear of bringing harm to another in any way. It includes our morality ... and also our viewpoint of ourselves.
Just the area of honesty is a good example. A person may become less than honest when they feel they have something to gain from it. The problem with lack of honesty is that deception ends up bringing harm to others, and it also brings harm to us in the process, doing exactly the opposite of what the perpetrator intends. If we become less than honest, let's say, then that breach in our integrity and our character has an immediate effect on how we view ourselves. We start seeing ourselves as a less than upright individual. This thinking becomes fed and then before you know it, you truly ARE an individual who is less than upright. You've jeopardized both yourself and the ability of others to make clear decisions that are based on fact.
Now, it's easy to see why someone needs to be sound and complete ... a person of integrity ... in one's own community. The people directly around us are owed respect, after all. And if we stop giving it to them, there is potential harm both to them and to us. Our reputation is most certainly at stake. Is it any different on the Internet?
Not at all! The fact is that the Internet creates a world community in which we as an individual remain a citizen. Again, our reputation as a moral, ethical person is most certainly involved when we deal with each other online. But much more than that, the way we treat others online has exactly the same potential to either help or hurt. How many examples are there out there of someone pulling off some terrible trick or hurtful scheme that ends up having dire consequences to those involved? People may assume since they are separated by great distance, their actions have little or no effect on others or themselves ... but this is far from the truth.
In a world of Internet disguises, shrouded half-truths promoted online, and lines that become more and more blurred, the idea of adhering to a system of ethics has never been more important. This is particularly true in business and marketing. If you cannot put your name, reputation and face behind your product for fear of some repercussion, then is that product worth marketing? Probably not. There's a lot at stake, and it's no time to let one's judgment become clouded by the effect that increased income might have. In fact, working online brings us the opportunity to test our metal ... to make sure that our integrity is complete in all respects, and that we are willing to stand by not only our product, but our reputation as a person who will let themselves come to harm before bringing it to someone else. Self-respect and self-esteem are prices that are entirely too high to pay for any willingness to let our integrity lapse at any time ... real world, or virtual.