So I was on Facebook the other day and I noticed I had an unread message. Not unusual especially since all of those messages about breast cancer have been being sent around. I decided to check it out anyway.
Turns out it was a chain message. A group of students was challenged by their professor to learn about the six degrees of separation and how it applies in the real world today. They were given a name chosen at random in a different state than their own and were told to use Facebook in their quest to find the person. If the laws about six degrees of separation were true, the message would eventually lead them to that person.
I thought this was an interesting assignment. It doesn’t particularly use social media for new stories or similar topics but I did think it was a neat use of social networking. Social media offers people the opportunities to reach broader audiences faster than by word of mouth or by letters/flyers.
I have even realized that in searching for news topics or for specific individuals, I tend to resort to Facebook or Twitter to reach a large audience who I then hope can help me reach that specific person or gain a different perspective on a topic. These sites have allowed easier access to user generated content as well as feedback.
After reading several blogs and news pieces on the student at Rutgers University, I decided it was important to look at the source of all the tragedy - bullying.
The Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, had been videotaped by his roommate and another student, having sexual relations with another male. The video was streamed live online. Clementi jumped off a bridge three days later.
This suicide has become the topic of controversy for many as it highlights two big issues in the country - being homosexual and bullying. With both issues, many people suffer daily from abuses inflicted b others simply because they represent something that other do not agree with. But the question I pose is, when does it stop? I wish I had that answer and be able to some how inform those suffering that it will eventually get better. But I unfortunately do know, it won’t be any time soon.
I don’t want to be pessimistic, that is not my intention at all when I say this. I am simply implying to the fact that these issues can only be handled if the two parties invested in these conflicts can some how forget the past and move on. Those suffering need to learn to forgive and those inflicting the harm need to realize the damage they are doing.
Bullying has been around since even before I, my parents, their parents ad their parents’ parents were born. It can be emotional or physical and can affect any aspect of an individual’s life. No matter the often disastrous effects of bullying, it has become a fixture in the typical life of youth. But why? To build character? To encourage being able to stand on one’s own two feet? To improve oneself? I am sure there are viable arguments for each of these but when is it that bullying crosses a line between being a normal occurrence in a young child’s life to causing the death of that individual?
Bullies never really understand the consequences of their actions and usually that is understandable seeing as this activity occurs during a child’s early development but lately the bullying has become even more prominent in the lives of American young adults. The jungle of high school is a typical scenario for bullied kids but you would think that most bullies would grow out of their immaturity in order to attend college - wrong.
It still happens as seen by the Rutgers incident. But what makes this incident even more trying is the fact that it was not only bullying but it also can be considered a hate crime (this is how I would see it). Had the student been having sex with a female student, the incident would have gone a different direction. Clementi would still be alive and there would most likely be suits filed against the roommate and other student by Clementi and the female participant. But unfortunately the happy ending where Clementi gets his revenge did not happen and we instead have a tragedy of a wonderful individual who was driven to end his life.
Social media has only helped the establishment of bullying, in fact it has allowed it to spread like wild fire. IT has become easier to access individual’s information and the individual, as well as reach a wider audience to increase the embarrassment aspect of the bullying. There are burn books, videos, wall posts, blogs, pictures and websites that only aid bullies in their quest to bully people. It gives them power and a sense of pride to see that they have followers who watch what they are doig and who also join in on the fun. This can be seen in incidents such as Billy Lucas, Clementi and Abraham K Biggs Jr.
My final thoughts on the matter are simply that yeah, bullying does happen. It has been around for longer than I can say and it has eventually shaped individuals’ characters whether good or bad. It basically can make or break you. But do I think bullying is necessary or right? No, I do not. We I think of bullying, I think of a crime being committed. Not only is it morally wrong but when you think about it logically it can be compared to most crimes of abuse. Do we allow wife-beaters to continue beating their wives? No. Do we let rapists free to go rape again? No. Do we let parents beat their children as a form of “education.” No. So why do we let individuals beat, torment and humiliate others - as seen in the cases mentioned, cause the death of an individual - and simply turn the blind-eye saying that its only part of growing up?
This week celebrates one of the most important days in our country’s history. Whether we have been born of people from various countries, our nationality unites us. We are not defined by our individual cultures but rather we are a blend of a variety cultures. We not only represent ourselves but also a great country for which generations have continued to keep the fire of freedom burning and has promoted changes necessary to ensure that that flame burns brightly for all.
I would like to take time to reflect our nation’s history, the obstacles and changes made throughout our difficult upbringing. Nations have often crumbled before challenges of economic and social downturns but our country has kept strong - united in its mission to provide safety and hope to all those it protects. It is a land of freedom, and a land of turmoil, but it is a land united in its mission.
In times where I see our patriotism has faltered, I think back to the beginning words of the Constitution. “We the people.” These are not simply words spoken to fill silence. Every American has spoken these words whether for school or just by curiosity, and I have to say that if a person says these words and does not feel something powerful or a stirring deep within their heart, well I have to say they are missing out on a great moment of pride. But alas, it is what our nation stands for that allows those of us to also feel nothing.
I have great faith in our country whether or not I agree with its political practices or those running the country. I am proud to say I am an American; I am proud to say my family and friends have fought for my freedom; I am proud that the lives given for my rights were not given in vain but in pride for a country.
I think this tribute to our nation’s backbone is wonderful and manages to explain the right of each American to both support and disagree with our nation.
In the case of Shirley Sherrod, I would have to say that this is simply another example of how social media has defined how the public receives and perceive its information.
Although social media has its strengths especially in getting first-hand accounts of events or simply an eye-witness testimony to something, it does have its drawbacks. Unfortunately for viewers of social media, it is impossible to know for sure that whatever has been posted or recorded is actually what happened. This instance is a perfect example.
In a speech, Sherrod was only quoted on a small segment of her speech and the individual posting chose not to fully provide the context of the video or of the speech. The public was led to believe something other than the truth and I have to say that this type of ‘social media journalism’ is not true journalism. Journalists seek the truth and inform the public about the facts. They do not provide misconceptions and force the public to believe their own opinion.
What is most disconcerting of the whole situation is that Sherrod’s boss and his administration did not bother to conduct a further investigation. They simply did not check facts. I find this strange especially in a time where all kinds of media and devices are available for use, that a person of such high rank would overlook it.
I mean is a politician had had an affair with an intern there would be investigations to prove what actually transpired. They would be relieved temporarily until the facts were fgured out. Why was this situation so different?
Andrew Breitbart posted the video knowing that it would cause a political upheaval as well as cause Sherrod to have to face what she said. But the fact remains as she had nothing to be sorry for or explain, if the rest of the video was played for the public. Social media just shows how easily it is to participate in a smear campaign. In another video which is also edited in favor of Sherrod, news anchors try to understand what happened and how situations like this should be handled.
I don’t know if we will ever know the reason, however, I do know social media has allowed the public to see true intentions of certain politicians but there is also times where it can show the intentions of the social mediaists as well.