Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's so social about this?

The other day I watched the film Teenage Paparazzo that came out on HBO starring Adrian Grenier about our fascination with celebrities and the illusion of being famous. It was about a young 14 year old boy who is a paparazzi and who Adrian turned the camera around on to educate on the perils of the spotlight and the unforgiving flashes of the cameras. We see this boy become consumed in his own celebrity and the attention it yields. His mom becomes an enabler just like the parents of so many other young stars and gives in to his whims. Adrian soon realizes the errors of his ways in his own project and that he simply is feeding the same beast that he abhors: everyone's fascination with fame and our seemingly train-wreck watching culture.

Here we are now and news is that an 18 year old college student killed himself because his roommate secretly videotaped him having sex with another man. Not only did he film the encounter, but he aired in on a streaming webcast. This comes a few months after another young girl took her own life when she was harassed online by other bullies. The social media can bring friends together and it can also tear lives apart. It can make people unwitting stars in videos that were never authorized or permitted to share in the first place. This new media gives access to demented individuals who thrive on hurting others and a wider audience at that.

It's hypocritical of the major news media to start harping on the online media channels now, but it will be coming. You will hear from CNN, ABC News, and Fox about the cruelty of the Internet. How the web has spawned this gonzo journalism culture and that people now have too much access to hurt others. The news media for decades has fed on sensational journalism to sell their advertising. They need ratings and train wrecks sell. They will expose the frailties of Facebook and Twitter, Skype and Youtube as they aspire for the next natural disaster to send their camera crew to. This isn't so much about the tools that the Internet provides, it's about how we choose to use them. The problem today with a lot of the younger generation is they are using them for social status but gaining nothing emotionally. They are surface builders, but feed nothing underneath. We look at pretty pictures, or are dazzled by funny videos, our lives becoming a music video.

The social media sites and Internet in general is used solely for most as a distraction, rather than a tool. That is not the fault of the providers. This is the same argument for gun control. You can't blame the manufacturers. You can blame the sellers if precautions weren't made, but guns are going to be here. It's what we do with them, it's what we do online. You can't limit free speech but we can prosecute crimes of Internet bullying, and Internet harassment. It's a different culture, and it came at us quickly. There is not the same protection and security that we had even a decade ago. The faster technology moves, the more quickly predators and criminals move through it. It's simply like adding more water and pressure to a water slide. Our policing can't keep up and are simply in a reactive mode and yet if they become proactive we will cry out that it violates our privacy. It's both. It's complicated.

Is technology good? Could I survive without a touchscreen smart cell phone? Could I live without Facebook and even this Blogspot? A Mead notebook worked just as fine before, but only I read my thoughts and opinions. Now I can broadcast them for all to read and view. Sometimes I feel I expose too much and I wonder if I do it for attention. Was it necessary to share that? Was that just vindictive? The platform we are given online is global. Anyone can surf for this stuff and even if you delete it, it may already be too late. What value am I truly providing on here? Is it better to hold a Kindle in your hands and have access to hundreds of books, or do you lose the value of actually holding a book in your hands and reading it? Don't we stare at computer screens enough in our lives? Isn't the smell of an old classic book or the feel of turning a page more satisfying? I don't know.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jon for all that you share. I cannot be the one to determine if you share too much, but I find that by reading what you share I am able to look more clearly at my life. By living vicariously through other's blogs, facebook posts, youtube video's, etc... I am able to reflect on and appreciate things in my life that I have trouble grappling with.

    I agree that there are many mean-spirited, vindictive, and/or immature people abusing what could be an incredible gift; but this is nothing new. For everything that can be used for good, there are those who will use it for evil. It is our responsibility as a society to promote the good uses and lash out and punish those who use it for evil. Do not blame the tool, blame those who have evil in their hearts.