prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

What Have We Become?

Posted by prof e on March 24, 2010

Sociologists, psychologists and others who study popular culture have been lamenting the decline of civil discourse for decades. Recent events have brought to light disturbing behavior that will, once again, become fodder for those of us who wonder about the role that media plays in the coarsening of communication.

First up, a text message exchange that led to the brutal beating of a 15-year-old female middle school student in Florida. According to the Washington Post, a 15-year-old male is being charged with premeditated attempted murder of his 15-year-old victim after repeatedly punching and stomping her with steel-toed boots. The boy’s 13-year-old girlfriend is being charged as an accomplice for pointing out the victim. This was necessary because the accused had never met his victim before the assault. But they HAD exchanged text messages in which the victim voiced disapproval of the relationship between the two accused teens. According to reports, the text exchange may have also included a reference to the fact that the boy’s older brother had recently committed suicide.

This past week has also seen passage of historic domestic legislation that will have enormous consequence for future generations. As Vice President Joe Biden exclaimed on live TV,  it’s a “big f***ing deal.” The Health Care Reform Bill passed by congress and signed into law by President Obama has been hotly debated and continues to generate strong passions on the part of supporters and those who oppose the bill. Some of those who oppose the bill have been accused of yelling racial epitaphs at members of congress and spitting on one member. ABC News has reported that the name calling on twitter has degenerated into calls for Obama’s assassination. According to ABC,

Another Twitter user who called himself THHEE_JAY and was identified as Jay Martin, tweeted “You Should be Assassinated!! @Barack Obama.”

Martin, who is black, followed his tweet, writing “If I lived in DC. I’d shoot him myself. Dead f***ing serious.”

Both of these instances offer sad commentary on the current state of human nature. But they also highlight the somewhat frightening tendency for online communication to quickly degenerate into exchanges that cross the line of what is acceptable in other contexts. If and when online conversations spill over into real-life actions we reap the tragic consequences.


15 Responses to “What Have We Become?”

  1. Monique said

    I completely agree. Social networking and advances in mass communications, especially the recent inclusiveness of citizen interaction, have fared to be a double edge sword.

    Martin’s incompetent tweets (seriously, he said that on Twitter for EVERYONE to see? You’re throwing yourself in a jail cell!) are an alert. They can help catch crazy people who speak before they think.

    One of my favorite TV shows is Forensic Files. I have seen, in multiple episodes, a crime being solved by an electronic media/mass com related clue. Emails, chat rooms, instant messenger, even a simple call from a cell phone pinpointing a killer’s location at an exact time and date. E-media/mass com technology can act like a black box, providing undisputable evidence.

    However- it also allows cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying that takes place in any age range, from teenagers making threats to each other, to Martin making threats towards our president.

    A case that reminds of this- and still horrifies me- is the Megan Meyer story, where the 13 year old girl committed suicide because of cyber-bullying. What makes it even worse is that she was being bullied by an ADULT. Not just an adult- one of her former friend’s mothers. What cruel person, who knows that this little girl already struggled with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, impersonates and teenage boy and bullies the girl until she hangs herself? That’s disgusting. Seriously sick and immature.

    So, again, double edge sword. That’s with everything, though. People freak out with anything new- some embrace its good qualities, others fear and raise a panic about its bad qualities. I’m a dreamer and hopeful- I know complete balance is never exactly possible, especially since “balance” may vary slightly for each individual, but I’m all about finding a medium. Anyways, I also believe things will mellow out over time- we learn to adapt and accept, you know?

  2. Quaneisha Collins said

    What has the world come to? I knew that once the health care bill was passed that there was going to be problems but not so drastic that cursing and violent threats should be exceptable, live and in the open where you can be identified. After many long conversations and debates about what should be done with America’s expensive health care, we have finally came to a conclusion that not everyone is happy with. I think that the only reason people are saying what ever they please through the internet is because, they feel that no one will ever know.

    As far as the kids fighting this is something that is becoming more and more exceptable. Many fights are being instagated by people who are not even involved in the fights. Things like this have not just happen this had been going on for a while. Since the society has not been doing things to show that this is not okay, the kids are going to continue to do it.

  3. Labrittany Coleman said

    The world is of course taking a big turn today in society,this healthcare problem has really caused violence to the people.The incident of course with the 15 year old was outrageous there should of been someone there to deal with this problem. High school drama has increased tremendously and after this i think there should be security at bus drop offs after school after this incident.

    For the health care bill being passed i knew there would be problems.i didnt think that it would lead to violence and people threating the president,i think that went to far.People these days need to understand that our world is breaking down and not everything is going to go there way.

  4. Kameron Wilhite said

    The world today is a crazy place! I think society is at an all time worst dating all the way back to the beginning. What happened to the good old days when if you and some had a problem you fought one on one and after became friends. The kid is to blame for the beating no doubt about it, but who is this kids mentor? Who in their right mind doesn’t explain to a boy at a young age never to hit a female! But not only did he punch her, he kicked her with steel toed boots! the kid must have had serious problems before that and no one could see that he was going to explode. He just couldn’t have almost killed a girl and not have been dealing with something else that no one could see the kid needed help and guidence. I think the school should have noticed or his parents this is outrageous!

    For the Health Care Bill I think people need to chill out and give it a chance before you just say assassinate the man! Give it a couple of years to see what it is like, then if its bad vote it out. People are crazy these days. No one said anything about assassinating president Bush for putting us in this crisis we are in now everyone has seemed to let that go. So give it a chance!

  5. Megan Tingle said

    I feel that our society is experiencing more violence as a whole. I think that it is because we are letting to many children get away without punishment. The world of technology has also made it even easier for people to ‘get away with things.’ It is simple for someone to say something through a text then delete it or even to use the exuse of someone else logged onto my screen name, that wasn’t really me saying that. This takes us back to our own moral development. Are we as a soceity moving backwards instead of becomeing more enlightened? Parents today are being told what they can and cannot do, such as spanking, or trying new ‘better’ methods of raising their children. Kids do not need to be reasoned with, they need to be taugh right from wrong then maybe we would have less violence and depression among children. They can stop acting like adults and be the children that they should be.

    Kohlberg placed this type of moral development lower in his stages and viewed this type of behavior for young children, not teens or even adults. We are letting ourselves get to caught up in blaming others, like Obama or Bush, instead of taking resposniblity ourselves and of raising our own children to stand againist violence, or even to do the right thing.

  6. Nick Isenhart said

    I think human nature has always been this dismal, but because social networking increases both the number of people displaying their nature and the audience. My instinctive reaction is that social networking is a bad thing, because it increases the chance that harmful, half-baked ideas can spread and cause real damage, such as the Fl. case. My considered reaction, however, is that these sites provide an outlet. I browse the commentary on news stories every so often, and it seems the more visceral reactions come from the people that lack the reasoning skills to utilize logic in their responses. I also note a marked decrease in spelling and grammar, and with certain issues an ignorance of historical, cultural and scientific context- possibly connected. I have to admit here that I see those trends on the opposite side of wherever I fall in the argument. Bias is bias, I’m human, and I accept my limitations.

    That said, in both of the specific situations detailed in the blog post, I attribute the responses to a lack of maturity, intelligence and general fortitude.
    The teens in Florida might be symptomatic of a greater social disease. The people involved lacked the discipline to decipher what was worth responding to and what wasn’t. I’ve been threatened by a wrong number text message. Regardless of the chronological age of the person, their obvious mental age (continuing a threatening conversation to the wrong person for five or six messages before I explained that I was the wrong person) made the whole situation amusing. I wasn’t about to seek out this person and kill them, they certainly weren’t worth going to jail over.

    As for the second situation, making threatening posts on twitter and similar sites, the problem again is a lack of experience. I was a Cavalry Scout (Reconnaissance) in Iraq in ’06, right when the suuni/shia civil war was building and peaked. So maybe I’m no expert, but I’ve actually seen the inside of a civil war. While I could go on for hours about the myth and mythoi of “the combat soldier,” suffice to say that it is easy to be truthful regarding one’s general military service and still mis-represent oneself regarding combat experience. (And yes, you have no reason to trust me either, based simply on what I’ve written so far, and it would take me a very long time to explain enough to convince a skeptic.) Tangent aside, the people doing most of the talking have no real-world experience. I wish there were a war on American soil. It would be interesting to see how “hardcore” Martin and THHEE_Jay are. Let’s say I have my doubts.
    Without a war or similar extreme circumstance, sites like twitter are the most harmless recourse for people without the discipline, fortitude, experience or training to carry out their threats. Let them spout invective; threats like that place the threatener at a tactical and strategic disadvantage. If the secret service is doing their job, all of those threats are investigated to the point they can be discounted.

    While the second issue is little or no problem, I believe the first issue is. The government cannot regulate or prevent situations like that from evolving through text messages without sliding into fascism and bankruptcy (monitoring and evaluating every private citizen’s text conversations is prohibitive on many levels.) The responsibility lies, as with most other issues involving persons not of legal age, with the parents. Cooperation or live-and-let-live is the most stable evolutionary solution, however, if children are taught that aggression is the best solution, situations like in Florida will continue to arise, regardless of the media involved in transmitting the exchange (interpersonal, telephone, video, text, social network.) New technology will never be an evolutionary step until the human interaction it carries evolves as well.

  7. Andre Blackwell said

    I would argue that disparaging behavior isn’t a new phenomenon, and that media has less negative effect on our behavior than we may attest. There is no need for an exhaustive History Lesson, yet we may assert that detestable behavior has existed since the inception of mankind. If we hold the Bible as an accurate account of human history, we will remember that Cain murdered his own brother Able. Even if we discredit the authenticity of this beloved Bible Story, we may yet find that any rational human would not attribute the malevolent innate desires found in mankind to an abstract external source such as mass media or simply media. I am not completely dismissing the impact of media on culture, yet I argue that media isn’t an autonomous entity. Without some sort of input whether in the form of programming, or consumption, media alone has no power. If we find our culture deplorable, we must hold our culture responsible for its depravity, not the media.

  8. Lacey chesser said

    online communication will cause problems because people can put all of their ideas out there for people to hear even if they do not agree. Everyone is going to disagee with someone elses thoughts and this could cause an arguement.

    The incedent with text messaging I think is a rare type of occasion. I have never heard of someone beating someone they never met because of a text message. But that situation was out of control and should have been taken care of.

    The twitter comment the man made i think is just him talking. Many people can sound tough online than in real life. Many people say things online that they would not say to someone in person.

    But it is bad that this is even going on at all in society but what can we really do about it?

  9. Gina Ortega said

    As a society younger generations are becoming more and more violent. In later generations it is taught for a man to never hit a women so to hear this story really upsets me. Punishments for these crimes should be appropriate to teach them a lesson.

    As for the hate crime against our President, the one who we all selected, whose life is being threatened. It makes no sense to not give him an opportunity to prove himself to Americans instead of rushing to kill him.

  10. Patrick Carey said

    I think that people seem to think that if they have a twitter or facebook that they do not have to filter what they are thinking. I think that it is immature and inappropriate to post something like assassinating our president and could lead to things much more serious like people actually following through with actions. People seem to think there are no repercussions for posting their opinion but there is, a former UFC fighter was released from the UFC after he made racial comments about President Obama on his twitter. So obviously people need to learn to filter what their thinking and not post things like that.

  11. jose lozano said

    I don’t think that anyone could be a “news” reporter. The news is something that is supposed to be UN biased and contain all of the information. Ordinary citizens have little to no experience or training in how to keep their opinions out of the news. Most of the time they aren’t reporting “news,” they are reporting their opinions of something that happened.

  12. Doug Kenyon said

    Using the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but NAMES will never hurt me” holds true here!

    Todays media culture allows us to instantly express how we feel about any subject, including this blog, and share them with anyone. Being able to express your opinion is protected but how you behave is learned. Speaking ones mind has become acceptable in todays world so knowing which fight you want to pick is important. Handling a situation comes down to maturity and past experiences. How you act is how you are judged.

    Being critical using media has given us a crystal clear picture on how can we take advantage of our rights to voice our opinion. It’s our behavior as humans that makes that picture blurry!

  13. Curtis Fleecs said

    First off, what a sick and twisted pair of kids. parents dont typically send thier daughters off to school in fear that they will be brutally beaten by a boy. i bet this raises concerns in parents across america. one of the first rules you learn as a young boy is to never his a girl. why one girl would encourage that upon another is truly shocking to me. who knows? matbe they saw it in a movie.

    and for the gentleman trying to smoke the pres. i’m pretty sure that it is illegal to say “i’m going to kill the president of the united states”, unless of course you are giving an explanation of how it is illegal to say that. the president has sniper pointing to every possible sniping position within a 5 mile radius wherever he goes, so good luck with that one.

  14. Deann Pantoya said

    First I’d like to say, what a bunch of crazy, horrible kids. How could they do such a thing to such an innocent 15-year-old girl? I believe that these kid’s parents need to have better parenting skills. In today’s society most boys are taught not to hit girls. I believe that parents should constantly be checking their children’s phones and text messages if they think or suspect that they are have problems with other kids.And with all this new technology in today’s world, it is making it so much easier for kids to bully each other. I feel that the 15-year-old male deserves to be charged with premeditated attempted murder, what he did to his victom was completly wrong and uncalled for.

    As for the health care bill passing, everyone knew it would be a problem. But what everyone didn’t know is how it would lead to such violence and people threating the president. In my opinion everyone took it way too far.

  15. Vickie said

    In as a professional manner as I can possibly say… people are nuts. Since I have my own opinions from being a Psychology major, let me share them with you as to why humanity is declining through social media and technology. First of all, there is no more face to face contact unless an unfortunate event explained above is happening. People are using social media and technology to keep up with people they would otherwise not be able to communicate with or because they are too afraid or socially unhealthy to do so. Social media does have its perks but because people rarely talk in person anymore no one has manners. How many times have people whipped out their cell phones in a line or when in a conversation with you just to see what someone else is saying or just to simply amuse themselves? Technology is a great way to be productive but in all honesty it is a device to fill a social void. Remember the time when people would actually pay attention to each other on a date or whenever being out to dinner? I can’t count how many times not only other people but I have pulled out my phone to simply reply to a text message or even reply to a post on Facebook. For the more extreme cases, people just don’t know how to communicate with each other in a civil manner. Instead of proving their intelligence and showing in an educated way how someone is wrong through words now its “F**k You! B*tch! I hate you!” and other threats that not only harm a person emotionally but as by example can lead to physical harm when people feel they have to live up to their threats in real life in order to be taken seriously. Here at CSU-P we know too well when even a simple joke can be taken and turned into a major threat that could potentially harm those associated with this university. Authorities have taken proper action but becasue there is so much room for error and because a fifteen year old may feel they will not be taken seriously they feel the need to prove themselves to others including their parents. Leading into my next point. Even parents today have been made out to be bad influences to their children. Take for example the Easter egg hunt that was cancelled in Colorado Springs this year because THE PARENTS were too violent! What does this have to do with social media? It is all about competition and without careful monitoring it will spin way out of control. On twitter someone could threaten Obama as stated above and because someone could have seen this and not be emotionally stable take it to a whole nother level which needs to be avoided. Simple statements can lead to over reaction as in the case of the Senator from Arizona. Unfortunate events happen when people misunderstand and misinterprate information being posted through media or sent through technology. There needs to be education and old fashion respect and manners when people communicate with each other even over social media. But because it is not said outloud in a room full of people, individuals have the ability to ignore the little voice in their head that could state how rude a remark is or when to stop. People are nuts and humanity is declining because we are allowing it to do so.

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