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It’s not about the Net. It’s about decency

Submitted by on Friday, 1 October 2010 2 Comments
I knew it was coming the second I heard that the Internet was tangentially connect to Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi's suicide.

Yes, tangentially. The Internet did not kill Clementi. It wasn't even a weapon in the case.

What might have killed Clementi: A vile, indecent act that showed a complete lack of respect and regard for another human being, let alone for the notion of privacy.

Putting a secretly captured video of someone making out on the Internet? Yes, the technology enabled it. But technology did not create the mindset that did it.

I'm less concerned about the likely legal violations here - clearly, there's invasion of privacy at the least.

I'm more concerned about the moral violations - two young adults/teens thought it was perfectly OK to share someone else's intimate, personal moment with the world.

There's no denying that there's something about the Internet that makes some people forget The Golden Rule. It's easier to blast someone when you're hiding behind a screen, removed from an actual human being who's reading and reacting, interpreting or misinterpreting.

And there's no denying that this generation of digital natives is comfortable with putting thoughts, feelings and moods out there for public consumption.

But it's a leap to take those two facts and question whether the younger generation is capable of discerning between public and private where others' lives are concerned.

Want to stream your own escapades online? Go for it, as long as your partner agrees. You'll both regret it in a few years, though, when a future boss finds the video.

Want to stream someone else's personal life? It's hard to see how that could be OK under anyone's moral code.

Clementi's suicide came as "Project Civility" kicked off at Rutgers, according to the New York Times.  It's a series of "panel discussions, lectures, workshops and other events to raise awareness about the importance of respect, compassion and courtesy in everyday interactions," the Times said.

One panel discussion is titled, "“Uncivil Gadgets? Changing Technologies and Civil Behavior.”

It's sad that a "Project Civility" is needed, but it's easy to see why. Just look around.

Road rage. Profanity-laden outbursts during pee wee baseball games. Political discourse so coarse that some applaud when a congressman yells "you lie!" at the president. Blaming and condemning an entire religion and region of the world for the actions of a few.

Those are just a few symptoms of our problems. They have nothing to do with technology. Gadgets are not uncivil. People who use them can choose to be, though.

To blame the Internet for Tyler Clementi's death is a "the devil made me do it" excuse. We can do better than that. We must do better than that.

We won't do better than that if we insist on blaming technology.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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2 Comments »

  • MtnMom said:

    I agree! The mindset of those who think it’s funny, or whatever their thinking is, to place someone else’s intimate life on the internet, the MINDSET (or lack thereof) is what is scary. That someone would snoop into someone’s bedroom for their own entertainment is sick enough. Young or not, the folks who posted the act(s), in my opinion, should get the book thrown at them, and hopefully some desperately need therapy as well.

    Technology, be it a computer, a phone, a gun, a camera, a car…not the problem. It’s the “nuts behind the wheels” as we say about problem drivers; in other words, the users of the technology, that have a CHOICE to use these things for good or for evil. We have too stinkin’ long been blaming every harmful behavior on anything and everything except the true power that determines good or bad, right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, helpful or harmful: PERSONAL CHOICE.

  • Leslie K. said:

    I hope the two young people involved in destroying this young man’s peace of mind have a difficult time sleeping for many, many years. How they can possibly justify this behavior is beyond me.