Exploring the moral compass: denunciations in a Facebook carpool group

Márquez Reiter, R. and Orthaber, S. (2018). Exploring the moral compass: denunciations in a Facebook carpool group. Internet Pragmatics, 1(2) pp. 241–270.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/ip.00012.mar


With the advent of the internet and social media, car and vanpooling have become easily available alternatives to public transport in many parts of the world. This paper draws on publicly available data from a Facebook car and vanpooling group used by Slovenian cross-border commuters to make their journeys to and from Austria more economically sustainable. It examines public displays of moral indignation following allegations of malpractice by relatively new members whose whole purpose in joining the group was to earn a living from driving vans across borders. Vanpool users collaboratively denounce van service providers for transgressing some of the social responsibilities that ought to bind members of the group together and for their lack of accountability. The accusations which entail exaggerations, complaints, insults and threats, among other hostile verbal attacks, convey moral indignation and are similarly resisted and challenged by the drivers. They offer a window into conflicting behavioural expectations at a time of socioeconomic change and transition. The alleged lack of service van providers’ accountability which, in turn, informs the van users’ displays of moral indignation is indicative of the moral relativism that emerges as a result of the relocalisation and transforming nature of a contemporary global practice at a time when changes in social life are underway. The primacy of the economic return that vanpooling provides van service providers and cross-commuters with is oriented to by the former as outstripping typical social responsibilities related to the provision of the regulated services, and by the latter, as morally unjustifiable despite acknowledging its economic value.

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