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Citizens of a New World

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The Earth and Moon in a galaxy of stars with the sun in the distance
Citizens of a New World

For all the negatives that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, at least one positive thing occurred in its wake. The world became aware of how much we could conduct our lives in digital space. Out of necessity for solutions in a world where we were suddenly prevented from sharing physical space, we collectively entered the digital world. Though some had already explored this new frontier, many had only glimpsed its fringes as digital consumers. Covid changed that.


The flood of people into the digital world for education, work, and social interaction highlighted the importance of societal standards for safe, responsible, and ethical behavior in this new space. As citizens of our physical land, we accept we exist in a world with rules. We understand our actions have consequences and we must take steps to protect ourselves and others. We understand that our actions build the narrative of who we are and what we value. Yet, for some, the digital landscape represents a lawless place where anything goes and all are somehow protected from consequences by anonymity.


A laptop, a mobile phone, and ear pods
The Wild Online West

This week, I began a course on Engaging and Empowering Learning Through Technology. Our first topic was Digital Citizenship. If you don't know what that is, in an article titled, "Digital Citizenship 101: Educating Students for a Better Digital World," the author(s) of Literacy Ideas stated that "digital citizenship encompasses the values, knowledge, and behaviors individuals need to navigate the digital landscape responsibly and ethically" (2023). They further explain that "it goes beyond technical proficiency and delves into the realm of digital ethics, online safety, privacy, and responsible digital engagement."


Just like we take a course in citizenship in school so we can learn about our government, our responsibilities and rights, and our mark upon history, we now need a course in digital citizenship to understand what responsible citizenry looks like in an electronic world. We need to understand legal implications, such as accessibility violations, copyright protection, and cyber-bullying laws. We need to understand the ethical implications of mass distribution of unvetted information and social pressures created by unrealistic influencers. We need to understand the emotional implications of bad netiquette, isolation, excessive screen time, and cancel culture. We need to understand the technical implications of a permanent and never truly anonymous digital footprint.


In short, digital citizenship education is focused on developing healthy and responsible digital habits to allow us to co-exist safely and respectfully in a digital world.


A group of smiling people wave American flags
A healthy and responsible society

The focus on digital citizenship this week led me to think about my own philosophies of citizenry and digital habits and how they were formed. This course I'm currently taking is the closest to a formal education I've had on the topic, yet I already had a strong sense of the do's and don'ts for appropriate online behavior and a respect for the do's and don'ts of citizenship. I think most of these rules I lived by in the digital world were shaped by being an early adopter of the internet and having an interest in the programming side of things. I knew early on that anonymity was not truly possible, so I tried to be guarded about my digital footprint. I also had a basic understanding of how to protect myself and my data and the trade-offs of the degrees of protection.


But I think the biggest contributors to my personal philosophy for online behavior were two things. The first is that I have a general distrust of everything and everyone. From an early age, I didn't accept authority as valid proof of anything. I questioned everyone. If a doctor said it, I wanted to see the research. If a politician said it, I wanted to see the laws. If a preacher said it, I wanted to see the evidence. That default state of distrust has helped me stay safe online, as well as help me recognize misinformation and misinformation tactics.


The second thing is that I was raised with a strong belief in the Golden Rule, or "treat people the same way you want them to treat you" (New American Standard Bible, 1971/2020, Matthew 7:12). I wouldn't want someone saying hurtful things about me in digital space, so I try not to do that to others. I wouldn't want someone using my intellectual property without giving me credit, so I try to ensure I give proper credit. I wouldn't want someone creating content that is inaccessible for me, so I try to be cognizant of others' accessibility needs. All this boils down to is having a basic respect for other people. It just requires making a conscious effort to think about how my actions, including my posted words, will affect others.


Weekly Wrap-Up


A woman wearing a mask and talking on a cell phone stands on a sidewalk near a busy street holding a laptop
A New World, A New Normal

The post-pandemic world requires us to become more than digital consumers. Our new digital world requires us to be digital citizens. To be responsible citizens of any land, physical or digital, we must take care to build narratives through our actions that illustrate respect for one another. Before we entered the digital world, the artifacts of our narratives were found in those we impacted for good or bad, and the things we created. In essence, the digital world is no different. Our lives will be recorded in the photos, videos, and audio files we create and share. We will be known by the words we say and those we write. We will be known by those we inspire, teach, help, and guide.


As I see it, every generation is collectively known for the ways they used the tools they had to shape the world they found. My hope is that our generation is known for extending the ways we connected with and loved one another when we stepped into a digital world. I hope the initial wild-west period of the internet becomes so distant from our way of being, it too becomes fodder for fiction and nothing more. And in its place, we build a decent, respectable online society focused on sharing our passions, our lessons, our struggles, and our triumphs. In other words, I hope we form a society of informed and responsible digital citizens.


References

New American standard Bible. (2020). BibleGateway.com. https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-American-Standard-Bible-NASB/ (Original work published 1971)


Digital Citizenship 101: Educating Students for a Better Digital World. (2023). Literacy Ideas. https://literacyideas.com/digital-citizenship-101-educating-students-for-a-better-digital-world/


 

All images contained within this post are courtesy of Media from Wix.

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Blondie.crabtree
Oct 09, 2023

Your memories of questioning everything is why your mother’s hair turned white really young. But, as that person, I must say that you inspired me to learn more about the Bible, our faith, health in general and a myriad of other subjects. Constant research was needed to raise an unusually bright child and childlike acceptance of most everything (my style) would not do. I’m a more learned person because my good Lord blessed me with you. My instinct told me the moment you were born that you would surpass all my dreams, intellect, and do amazing things. That has come true.

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