Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cyberbullying and Can YouTube Make Presidents More Ethical in the Long Term?

Cyberbullying on The Rise

My grandfather emailed an article from New Scientist about the rise of "cyberbullying" and some alarming results, including suicide, that have resulted from this relatively new form of aggression.

Here is a quote from the article from a father of a boy who killed himself after he was harassed online:

John Halligan, the father of the boy who killed himself after being harassed online, continues to lobby for cyber-bullying legislation that specifically targets children. He also talks to school groups and runs a website recounting the events that led to his son's death. "It won't bring Ryan back," he says. "But it is helping a lot of Ryans out there that are still alive and don't know where to turn."

I read an article in New Scientist or Discover a few years ago about the depersonalization of killing, with regard to executioners in that example. It said that some executioners operate in "teams" and multiple people push a button, but never know whose button-push actually triggered the lethal event for the condemned. This apparently left them less anxious than if they knew for certain it was them.

Along those lines, here is another quote from the article:

The lack of face-to-face contact might tempt bullies to new levels of cruelty. "On the playground, seeing the stress and pain of the victim face-to-face can act as an inhibitor to some degree," explains Carr. "In cyberspace, where there is no visual contact, you get more extreme behaviour." Kowalski says the effect is unique to computer-mediated communication. "There is a distancing of the self and immediacy in response that we don't have in any other form of communication," she says. "On the computer, it's like it's not really you."

I think there is a lot of merit to these arguments. In many cyber-age industries, such as operating an ecommerce system, you do not have to interact directly with customers or users. It can become very easy to be unconcerned or ignorant of the realities they face. But, humans are social creatures, and social interaction among people in face-to-face situations are what force us to become well-mannered and treat people with respect.

The moral of the story is that you should treat people with respect, regardless of whether they are in your classroom, on your bus, next to you in line at the grocery store, present with you in an online chatroom, or dancing with you on a dance floor.

There is a flip-side to the stories of cyber-bullying that cyber-bullies probably don't quite understand, and that is the permanence of their record. Perhaps these kids hear from old movies or administrators, "This will go down on your permanent record." Well, a "permanent record" usually traveled from school to school, but was eventually lost by the time a student went to college.

On the Internet, there is no such thing as "lost". What these ill-behaved kids do by cyberbullying, should they get caught, will be recorded basically forever. That's a lot more permanent than paper records.

There is a silver-lining in this whole story, however.

Can YouTube Make Presidents More Ethical?

I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in today's day and age. In the past, thousands of years ago, you often had to just take ideas and words at face value because you had no way to research them. A politician could oily-handshake you and look you in the eye and try to convince you that he'd be an ethical person with your best interests in mind.

In today's world, people can share information much more rapidly. Perhaps generations that follow will be aware of their conduct, and will, at least in public, be forced to behave more ethically and thoughtfully. If they choose to be idiots and act disrespectful, someone could post them to YouTube and show their true character, as you can see with these examples.

You can go to Google and type the terms "bush middle finger video", and watch this:

You could also type "bush clean glasses youtube" and watch this one:

Or, you could type "I'm the decider" and watch this ludicrous video:

Or, you could type "now watch this drive" and get this:


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