Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Of Privacy and Perspective: 2

I’ll tell you right now that this starts out with a sad story. Actually, it starts out with two sad stories.

The first is about Jessie Logan, a high school senior who sent naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend, only to find out that he had forwarded them along to his friends, who forwarded them along to their friends, and before you knew it, the entire town knew about her pictures. The harassment and taunting she got from her classmates was so bad that she committed suicide.

The second is about a freshman at Rutgers named Tyler Clementi. You may have heard of him. He’s the one who jumped of the George Washington Bridge after his roommate posted videos of him having sex with another male student to the Internet.

Now I want to tell you a good story. It’s about my friend “Lauren.” When she was in college, she had innocently made a video for her boyfriend, only to have his roommate make a copy of it and post it to the Internet for all the world to see. But she’s still alive.

Why is Lauren still alive while Jessie and Tyler aren’t? Well first of all, she had the support of her family and friends. Now, by saying this, I do not in any way mean to imply that Jessie and Tyler didn’t have the support of their family and friends. I know from watching the heart-wrenching video, just how much support Jessie had from her mother. But for some reason, it wasn’t enough. What went wrong?

I’d like to think that it all boils down to a sense of perspective. Somehow Lauren was able to say “Yeah, this sucks right now, but it’ll blow over in a few years.” Maybe her parents and friends were able to say this to her, and have her believe it. And you know what, almost 10 years later, no one really cares about that video that her boyfriend’s jerk of a roommate posted to the Internet.

Yes…it may suck right now, but it will blow over. You will meet new people who don’t know about the incident, you’ll look different in a few years and no one will recognize the person in that video or those pictures as being you. It will blow over.

And let’s talk about meeting new people. Maybe Lauren wouldn’t have been so lucky had this happened to her in high school. Why? Because the high school community is a very small one, everyone knows you, and within those close quarters a few mean people can seem to be everywhere. But when you get to college, there are so many more people, most of whom don’t know you, and most of whom don’t care what potentially embarrassing pictures of you have been posted online. At the small high school Lauren went to, this might have been a disaster. But at the major university she attended when this happened, it wasn’t even worth a footnote.

The sad thing is that Tyler Clementi didn’t know this. He didn’t realize that in the grand scheme of things, the video of him having sex with another guy wasn’t seen by that many people, but that his death, and why he killed himself, would make him world famous.

And not only will it blow over, but people will grow up. In a few years it would’ve blown over for Jessie and Tyler, but it will never blow over for the people who were responsible for their deaths. Because even if they don’t feel any guilt about it now…

One day they’ll have kids of their own, and then it will hit them like a ton of bricks.

But I don’t really care about them. I’m more concerned with all the potential Jessies and Tylers out there, and I want you to know that it will blow over. It’ll suck for a year or two, but it will blow over.

Trust me on that, and don’t do anything rash before then.

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