The news in New Jersey of the suicide of a Rutgers’ student has cast social media in a untirely unwanted light. It’s hard to keep up with all that’s been said about the situation. Suffice to say none of it has been good. There is trouble in the social space.
But it doesn’t take a trained eye to say that elements of social media are out of kilter. To its legion of addicts ever in search of the next titillating post or video, it has become all about staggering speed, it has become about the impersonality of nothing private and it has become about volume of viewers. And yes, it can become about cruelty.
The discussion has little to do with the how or the what of what I write about. Later this morning I will write to Ellen and Reid, and at least for a few days, they will have the letters to themselves.
But the discussion has much to do with how we go about, or perhaps condone, accountable communication. A mob mentality is at work that exposes something none of use should be entirely comfortable with. It may as well scream ‘Look at me’. Behind that scream, with the potential to grow exponentially, are the voices of dozens, then thousands and then millions of bystanders who want nothing more than to be entertained.
Unfortunately in New Jersey, no one was listening to the victim. The pack has pulled up stakes and moved on to the next social media phenomenon.
Here is last Monday’s letter to the kids.
September 27, 2010
Ellen/Reid: It’s been raining off and on since yesterday but that is a good thing after months of roasting in the hot sun. You guys have had rain in spades, we’ve had it by thimblefuls. It’s a little late for some of the dry spots down here but we’ll take what we can get. This morning was one of the first truly cool-ish mornings we’ve had in some time. The leaves have to be turning where you live.
This weekend’s party sounded like a hoot. Nonnie would have been in all her glory what with her old pals. To have been a fly on the wall watching the old girls drink free wine and jabber. No doubt you guys were on your best behavior. Ellen, it was a riot to hear about Tim stuck in the receiving line with the ladies. Talk about a fish out of water. Your mom called last night to apprize me of the goings-on.
I turn in my first column to the Charlotte Observer this week. Hopefully they will like it. My beat is the senior housing market. Man, what a testament to my age. But it is a humongous portion of the paper’s readership. It was interesting to hear from my editor that they’ve had a spate of ethical breeches by freelancers in recent months so – knock on wood – I should be a breath of fresh air for them. If and when it’s accepted, let alone run, I’ll send you a tear-sheet.
Reid, I’ve fine-tuned my web site even more and will get you the latest update in a day or so after it has gestated even a little bit more. Your push for a new mega-powered desk top sounds like the right move although building it yourself sounds like something of a task. Hope you’re up to it because it would be all Greek to me.
I was out for the morning installment of my daily walk yesterday when I breezed by a homeless man sleeping in an alcove along my route. Cars were roaring by not 10 yards away. I took a snapshot on my phone and posted the picture. His plight put mine in perspective. There is always someone worse off than you. Either their living situation, their health, their income, you name it. There but for the grace of God go I.
In a way, I’m kind of enthused about REI. Even if it is temporary, it is an outdoor space I know and identify with. Of course, if something else comes up I’d add that to my work itinerary, but at least they are giving me a shot. I’ve got to juggle the trip to Nebraska around the ‘group interview’ process but at least I’ve cleared the first hurdle.
On a sad note, my parsley plant on the front porch looked denuded, and sure enough, it was being devoured by black and yellow striped caterpillars. One by one, I squashed them flat. Only then did I think to do a Google search for North Carolina caterpillars, and, to my anguish, found out they were Swallowtail butterflies in training. And here I’d annihilated the entire squadron. What an ogre. I feel terrible. Next year I’ll replant the parsley, and they can have their way with it.