My husband (aka Mr Brambilla) has something to say about social media, cyber bullying and human relations among adolescents and adults.
The news dates from back in March of this year. The City of Chicago banned the use of an app to minors. The app in question is called Yik Yak and allows people to anonymously share messages with 500 nearby users, which may be acquaintances or complete strangers.
I am sure most of you know already what I am getting at. Adolescents + messages + anonymity = disaster in the making.
The reasons behind the ban are very simple: school evacuations due to false bomb alarms, anonymous rape accusations… need I continue?
This piece of news really got me to thinking of its many ramifications and I felt the need to share it because I think it is extremely relevant in the education of our kids.
Talk of bullying and cyber bullying is all the rage lately, especially in the USA and Australia, and I am sure in Europe as well. I often wonder if this is a real crisis or a crisis created by the media. Is it maybe just easier, in this day and age to uncover bullies, thanks to computers? Of course, technology makes bullying much simpler to perpetrate and more effective. What we are discovering is how easily social media turn anti-social. They are simple “media” that have nothing to communicate unless they are associated with the concept of “social”.
Has Facebook made us more social and friendly? Or did we end up virtually socializing with distant, “social” friends when we are supposed to be interacting with the friends we are actually hanging out with at the bar instead?
While pondering all of this, a disturbing scenario hit me: what is the difference between an adolescent harassing a friend on Facebook or Yik Yak and a drone pilot causing “collateral damage” in a land far away in time of war? They say it’s easier to kill on a computer because when you are physically detached from the target, you are also emotionally more distant. This gives a whole new meaning to the old Italian adage: far from the eye, far from the heart!
Telling a friend he is a a-hole is easier on Facebook than to their face. It’s also easier to anonymously accuse a teacher of rape.
Are we maybe too optimistic when embracing new technologies? But, on the other hand, would it be good to be out of touch with reality, knock computers and then decide they are great?
The conclusion I have come to so far is that I have way too many questions and too little data and even fewer answers (I am a Vulcan engineer – you know, Star Trek… -, but I won’t take offense if you call me a philosopher!)
But one thing is clear to me. Humanity keeps producing tools only to label them as either good or bad, make them legal or outlaw them, but in the end, we use them to communicate. I hope and pray that we will never hear of a new phone that speaks of love, or one that spews hatred only. All of these tools are means to communicate who WE are. Even the tools that are not exactly “social”.
Do we need the kitchen knife to stab our significant other or to make them a delicious meal? Do we want to use nuclear power to destroy or to produce energy? Do we want to use Facebook to interact with friends or to cause pain? These social media tools exist to facilitate interaction.
So, in the end, it’s easy to say that:
- Pimply adolescents behave like idiots.
- They shouldn’t be using anonymous tools, even though their right to privacy is universally granted.
- Youngsters today are the worst ever, they do drugs, are sexually depraved, and all the usual things that older people have always said about younger generations.
The truth is, when we get older, we all tend to make generalizations, especially when it’s about the young, because we have a hard time understanding them.
Us, “young parents” are also “old youngsters” who have stopped posting party pictures on our Facebook page and have started sharing images of our babies instead.
We are the ones that distance ourselves from the youth and arrogantly label them as the debauchers of the 21st century. Yet, that youth is the product of ourselves.
Sometimes our attitude towards the young reminds me of the chef who complains about the dish he prepared without taking any accountability and goes as far as keeping the customers from eating it but still demands to be paid for it.
When we make it illegal for all the kids out there to use certain tools, just because a minority of them has mis-used them, then we should wonder why we were not able to educate them to discern between use and abuse, why have we failed to convey the very same values that the law is dictating. Also, it would be interesting to find out how we would have used said tools, had we known they existed. Perhaps we would have utilized them to make mean comments on the surgery enhanced lips of our fat-assed co-worker?
I am not here to defend bullies but I find myself as part of a society perpetually trying to release minors from accountability only to point our finger at them in general when a small minority of them does something wrong.
Everyone should be responsible for their actions, whether they are minors or adults. And, in the case of a minor, I think we should try and understand where we failed as parents, why we didn’t succeed in teaching them the difference between right and wrong. This approach should make me a better dad, don’t you agree?
Before closing, there is a story I want to share with you. I remember a cousin of mine complaining and asking my uncle why he had to eat soup while his older sisters were exempt. My uncle’s answer was: “They are much too old now and cannot be educated anymore, but you’re little and we are still holding out hope for you, so shut up and eat!”