It was a quiet evening, the end of a typical day, lying in bed with my wife getting really connected … to our smartphones.

This is difficult to admit, but I am going to go out on a limb and assume what I am about to reveal is not that uncommon. The kind of lying we were doing was not of the horizontal variety. This form of lying was in the perpetuation of rumors. Rather than focusing on our own relationship we entertained and distracted ourselves with the latest rumors triggered by images in our Facebook feed.

Smile You’re on Camera

At one point, I rested my smartphone on my chest while I helped my wife restore the email settings on her phone. This process took about 5 minutes. When I retrieved the phone from my chest it was on Facebook Live mode.  I did not know what Facebook Live was and turned the phone to my wife with an inquiry “Hey babe – whats up with this?”. “SHUT IT OFF – SHUT IT OFF”, was her prompt response. As it turned out, I had inadvertently activated Facebook Live when I set my phone down. There were 14 people viewing the video at the moment I shut it down. A recorded video of the session remained within my status feed. My wife and I decided to watch the video before deleting it to see if there were any apologies required for our conduct. Aside from the image on the video descending into my manly chest hair and some humorous audio of my wife trying to recall her email password, there was no harm done.

The Power of Social Pressure

Since this incident occurred, I have caught myself numerous times in the same lying mode. I use the term “lying” intentionally because that’s essentially what gossip is: a perpetuation of perception that, at best, is only loosely rooted in fact. The “fact” that my phone is in my pocket along with my “experience” that at least once it has broadcast my verbal diarrhea for the world to hear have influenced behavioral change. This combination of fact and experience have produced fear of causing myself and others harm, rejection and embarrassment. This fear is a powerful motivator to regulate behavior.

The Power of GOD

Look to any of the religious traditions and you will find some version of the Golden Rule:

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” Buddism

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Christianity

“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others” Confucianism

“Be just as you would love to have justice” Islam

“All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves” Native American Spirituality

For me, the fear of consequences arising from the transgression of the laws of GOD has not been a very powerful motivator. Perhaps the lack of immediacy of the potential consequences is a factor. If we look to fear as the determinator of motivation to regulate behavior, hands down Facebook Live wins!

The Power of Bronze Principles

Using the fear of Facebook Live as a motivator to produce behavioral change has its limitations. What happens when you or the other person doesn’t have a smartphone in their pocket? Can we then merely gossip away without consequence? Ok, bad example, it is hardly realistic that neither person would have a smartphone! How about we simply decide to never talk about someone who isn’t present to the conversation. That way smartphone or no smartphone we ensure no gossip occurs. This is fine and dandy, but it also ensures that we are never able to collaborate for the betterment of the absent person.

What if we were to replace the idea of a Golden Rule with that of a Bronze Principle. The Golden Rule attempts to regulate behavior through fear and striving for perfection. Instead, the Bronze Principle encourages behavior to flow naturally from a place of our own well thought out principles. Here’s my Bronze Principle to regulate my gossiping tendencies … Be Kind.

What would your Bronze Principle be?