Trouble, at the Speed of Social Media
LEE’S SUMMIT, MARCH 15, 2013 – Have you ever thought deeply about the impacts of a comment in today’s rapidly changing technological world: Specifically when that comment was negative or even dangerous? I’ve caught myself thinking about how things have changed during my life in this regard. When I was a kid if someone made a threat to someone it was either verbally or on some sort of note. Say for instance that comment was passed to another person, or told to another person. How far does it go? One person? Maybe two or three? Of course if the comment was threatening it wouldn’t take long before a teacher or a principal got involved. Then you were punished pretty heavily, maybe a suspension or they scared you to death when they mentioned involving the police.
Fast forward to today. Now that comment was posted on Facebook or twitter. Of course since you are in high school you probably have well over 100 friends and/or followers. Most of those friends probably spend a lot of time on their own Facebook and twitter, seeing everything that everyone posts. So in short order your comment has now been read by your friends, reposted or retweeted, seen by their friends and before you know it, if your comment was worthy of reading and passing on, your message has been seen by hundreds of people.
Remember your maturity when you were in high school? Did you ever say something you immediately wanted to take back? In the first scenario only a few people heard it, so it probably wasn’t too difficult to backtrack and remedy the problem. In today’s example it is virtually impossible to retract your comment, as the damage is usually wide spread very quickly.
I’m sure you probably view this as something you’ve heard before, but I want you to really think about the impact those 100 character tweets or those few words in a Facebook status mean for a person who is learning to express themselves and trying to grow into an adult.
Expanding on this; I want to take you further into the example. Some might read this and think I’m just putting together a bunch of hypothetical negatives that could never take place. To each their own, but I will continue nonetheless.
Remember your immature post from earlier: Well, now it has you into some hot water. You had been getting bullied for what feels like forever at school and you feel that it’s time to take some action. You posted a threat to your high school because that’s how you’ve decided to vent your frustration. You’ve reached your wits end, and nowadays a common way to vent is to post about it to your Facebook friends – far too often I read of the trials and tribulations of my friends.
Unfortunately for you, this post found its way onto the screens of hundreds of people who now are frightened and report their concern to school administrators or to the authorities. Because of the heightened awareness toward these types of threats, the police immediately jump to respond. Now you find yourself in handcuffs and staring in the face of felony charges. Depending on the felony, it is possible that it could stay with you forever.
You might be thinking, “he deserved it for what he did,” but I’d like you to take a second to look, and think of what all this really means. This is someone that felt bullied, maybe even felt like they’d lost their way. Doesn’t it just make sense that in order to protect society from this menace, that we should arrest him, slap him with a felony, and dump him in a juvenile school?
Let’s change gears and think about what a high school kid has to live for. Weren’t you thinking your friends were everything? Or maybe you were looking forward to college and getting a great job. What would happen if you had those things taken from you? You’re in a new juvenile school, so your friends are gone. Getting into college with a felony is tough; let alone explaining that you graduated from a juvenile school. To get a job with a felony on your record is no easy chore.
If you didn’t have these things to live for, do you suppose you would be more or less likely to make another bad choice? If you no longer fear consequences, because you don’t think it could get any worse, are you more or less likely to make another bad choice? If you feel that everyone has turned against you, do you think you would be more or less likely to make another bad choice? Now that immature threat is something you might possibly act on. Doesn’t it sound like our efforts to protect have only done more to endanger? Is it possible that as a society we too quickly over-react based on the fear of what-if?
I don’t pretend to have the right answer, and my only intention is to offer some logic into an illogical situation, so I will conclude with this argument. Did past generations have it so wrong when they handled situations with a good paddle or belt; or maybe just the fear that dad would be home later and you’d have to explain your actions to him? How would the kids behave when they no longer feared the belt, or dad wasn’t coming home that night? Were they more or less likely to make a bad choice?