When we think about ethics, it seems that we generally think the concept is relegated to realms involving shuffled papers and brokered back-room deals. We sometimes think of ethic as merely an ideal that we may pick up or may not, instead of having it as a sort of guiding force behind everything we choose to put into the world, whether written or otherwise. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon the perspective, our world has expanded what is seen as “written” and with the rapid accessibility of information, so too has the weight of what it means to be ethical. As our rhetorical stages have expanded into the digital, it is imperative that our ethicality be reflective of rhetoricians who seek truth at all costs. Truth, and I believe there is such a thing, must be preeminent. At the very least, the willingness to seek after it, must be. Truth, in the larger sense of the word, has no “side”. It has no ideology, no affiliation, and no banners. It simply is and our imperative, as reasoning rhetorical people, is to use that ethic toward a worthy advantage.
Part of how we accomplish the goal of reaching worthwhile outcomes, within our growing digital society, is in analyzing how we interact with our various audiences, in any given rhetorical situation in which we find ourselves. On any given moment there is invariably someone who is reading or listening to the words we use, the cadence with which we convey them, and the attitude that portrays them. There is an old adage, that has become a sort of colloquial cliché, that says, “you catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar”. While I know of no one who wants to spend their time catching flies, the phrase holds true. The part of our rhetorical identities in the digital space that I believe will have the most lasting impact on giving any audience the agency to step toward truth, is in how we communicate our various ideals and goals to those audiences, or to those individuals, that view our work. The loudest voices do not win over ethical audiences. They may encourage the news cycle of the day, but they do not guide people toward truth. The calm and collected are the ones who are in the best position to use their rhetorical strategies to guide, rather than prod, to better rhetorical situations and to truer outcomes for society, as a whole.
This is my own goal for my place in the digital space: to represent a voice that always aims toward truth and seeks it out, regardless of where it leads. In order to truly embody ethic, we must be open to being able to always put forth the truest information we can or, at the very least, be willing to analyze ourselves enough to study our own motives and correct them toward truthful outcomes.
No human being holds within themselves all components of rightness. No human being fully embodies what it means to be ethical, and thus we must also seek to be truthful, honest, and to have motives that are rhetorically sound, or else we can not hope to get close to some semblance of rightness or ethicality. This must be done within ourselves. This will allow for us to be both ethical rhetoricians and members of ethical audiences: on the one hand as disseminators of information, and on the other hand, as receivers of it. The benefit of learning how to better navigate the digital spaces, through creating blogs and websites, or videos and media, is that it shows us just how lacking we all are and how much further we have to go, to leave an ethical footprint worth walking in, for our posterity.