Sunday, October 03, 2010

We are all on tv

I assume most people have heard about the Rutgers suicide story already. It is a pretty tragic and appalling story. A guy sets up his webcam to broadcast his roommate making out with a guy and broadcasts it over the internet and even mentioning it on his Twitter account. A few days later his roommate commits suicide, literally updating his Facebook status about what he was doing moments before jumping off the George Washington bridge. The end result is one 18 year old dead, two other 18 year olds looking at up to five years in prison and a lot of people questioning youth and technology.

I often wonder how I would survive being a teenager today. Part of me thinks that I would have been better off. I’ve always been more comfortable interacting with people through writing more than actually dealing with them directly (thankfully I’ve improved on this since high school.) But, I could imagine myself keeping a blog as a high school kid and maybe the fact that I could write something interesting and funny would make those teenage years slightly more bearable.

However, teenagers are by their very nature cruel and vindictive. You are at a point in your life where you can first taste real power, where all you want to do is test boundaries and see what you can get away with. You tend not to think about consequences because up to this point your actions really haven’t had any long lasting consequences. So while I would love to think that a teenage me blogging would result in people not thinking of me as a complete nerd I’m pretty confident that what I would end up with would be a bunch of Facebook comments calling me a complete nerd. I was the guy who always got prank phone calls; imagine the current version of that.

At least I can say that while I put a portion of my life public on the blog I control what people see and have done so knowing what it is like to have nothing public. Kids in college today have lived their entire lives online and in public. They have always had MySpace or Facebook and constant text messaging. To the roommate this was just another piece of information to send out to the world. It was cruel, definitely, but I bet he had no idea what the consequences were. He assumed that we are all living in one giant reality show. If Ashton Kutcher can use hidden cameras on Punk’d why can’t he? In the same sense how can one be so distraught that suicide is considered a solution but he makes sure to bring his laptop and a cel phone to the bridge so that he can tell the world just what he is doing? Even those moments are part of the reality show.

It is just a sad state of affairs. There are times when technology moves so fast that the cultural changes outpace are ability to grasp the changes. Our connected world has completely changed our sense of distance and openness. 20 years ago I would write letters to a girl in Minnesota that I had met because it was one of the easiest ways to stay in touch. Today, we would do video chats on Skype. In high school I was able to hide behind my books. Now everyone broadcasts their presence to the world.

Best of 120 Minutes (10/3/1993): Afghan Whigs were always one of those bands that I heard people talk about but that I could never get into. On the other hand, this video shows an insanely young Conan O’Brien so it has that going for it.

The five random CDs for the week:
1) The Jayhawks “Smile”
2) Gomez “How We Operate”
3) Arcade Fire “Neon Bible”
4) Tift Merritt “See You on the Moon”
5) R.E.M. “Live Collection”

1 comment:

jlouise said...

New college requirements should include Social Networking 101: Consequences & Impacts. Pass/Fail should only be given prior to graduation 3-5 yrs later after a review of their accounts and actions. The world, it is a changing...just hope for the better and we can figure out how to deal with it as a society, or use it as enlightenment on humanities path.