Thursday, September 30, 2010

Uncivil Gadgets in Rutgers Suicide?

This was tragic. Rutgers freshman and accomplished violinist Tyler Clementi made out with another guy in his dormroom. His roommate secretly filmed it with his webcam, streamed it live on the web and tweeted this to promote it:

“Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Sad enough. It's tough for a lot of kids just going off to college. It tends to be really rough if you're gay, bi or curious. Streamed live in the act is about the scariest thing imaginable. And totally out of line.

Three days later, he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.


It's very unlikely the roommate saw that coming. It presumably just felt like a prank.

It was a prank, but a serious one. Whether or not it brought Tyler to suicide, it was sure to bring him unbearable pain.

Coincidentially, Rutgers announced what happened yesterday, the same day it was scheduled to launch Project Civility. They held a panel discussion last night on Uncivil Gadgets. The opening of the event description read:

Uncivil Gadgets? Changing Technologies and Civil Behavior
New technologies have drastically altered our everyday behavior and how we interact with one another. How do emerging technologies affect our conduct, both civil and uncivil?

Please don't jump on the title. They know it's not the gadgets that are uncivil. But it's an important point: gadgets are changing what we can do to each other at lighting speed. It's really easy to get carried away having fun with them.

Yes, it's easier to out your roommate, and so much more colorful. Telling stories about him is tame compared to capturing him on tape. That doesn't mean it's OK to do it.

We know that. Everyone reading this does. Hopefully word will reach the next kid thinking about what he can stream.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so very sad for Tyler Clementi and his family. This should never have happened.

    When I was a freshman in college, almost 30 years ago, two male friends of my roommate threatened to rape me, because my roommate had told them she thought I was a lesbian. (She was right, but even I didn't know it at the time.) They thought they could "show me what I was missing." Fortunately, they didn't follow through with their drunken "joke." And my roommate couldn't post about me on Facebook. But the core problem isn't the gadgets; it's the deeply rooted homophobia that permeates our society.