Walking a Mile in Someone’s Headline. The importance of digital citizenship.

You’ve probably had somebody ask you to “walk a mile in my shoes” before. Monica Lewinsky has given this idiom a new spin by asking people to walk a mile in someone’s headline. In her TED talk: The Price of Shame she describes her experience with public shaming during a time when the internet was just beginning to blossom.

Just like Kystle I was only 12 years old at the time and never really knew much about this story when it was actually happening. Before watching this TED talk I hadn’t ever taken the time to read about the story and learn about what happened. I knew she had a sexual relationship with then President Bill Clinton, but I never knew how the information was leaked or how their relationship came to light. I didn’t know that she had confided in a co-worker who then began recording phone conversations between the President and Monica. I was surprised to hear that her conversations were recorded although I shouldn’t have been. I guess I thought that private conversations would have been harder to get ahold of back then. In today’s digital world this breach of information wouldn’t come as a shock to me. It seems that information is so easy to access and people are able to find private information through hacking or other means.

Technology has made it easier for people to share information and a lot of people aren’t afraid to share private information via social media. I would say that there are no boundaries or filters for some people when it comes to sharing things online. People are also quick to make comments and state an opinion behind a screen that they wouldn’t normally say out loud in person. This makes it easy for people to publicly shame another person online. Monica Lewinsky described how public shaming affected her life in such a negative way but she was able to overcome the shaming through the help of her family. She decided it was time to speak up and tell her story when she hear about Tyler Clementi’s story.  Just like Tyler, Amanda Todd also took her life after experiencing cyberbullying and online shaming.  Tyler and Amanda had private information shared online and made public for others to see. Neither of them wanted this information to be shared but it was.

Photo Credit: smileham via Compfight ccWe have seen so many different ways that private information has become public. Actor, Jennifer Lawrence, had her iCloud account hacked which lead to nude pictures of her being shared online. These were taken from her personal computePhoto Credit: smileham via Compfight ccr and the pictures weren’t meant to been seen by anyone else. She was able to stand up for herself and made some pretty impressive comments fighting back against the negative comments she was receiving. Maybe it was easier for her to stand up because she is a celebrity and has more power than a regular joe. Maybe she was able to speak up because she had a valid point…the information was on HER computer. Her computer that she thought would be a safe place for such pictures to be kept. I suppose the lesson here is that nothing is safe from being hacked.

In my opinion if something happens in public then I would consider it fair game. If it’s something you don’t want to be shared then keep it behind closed doors. But is there really such a thing as closed doors? Look at the Tyler Clementi story in which he was behind closed doors and was being recorded unknowingly. Look at Jennifer Lawrence whose private information was hacked. Can we ever be sure that our information is safe? I think that anything we have on a device is at risk for being shared. It is important to think about the access to our devices that people may gain and be thoughtful about what we share. It is important to remember our digital footprint.

The screen seems to provide a mask that some people feel safe hiding behind and name calling. The screen somehow makes some people forget to think about how their comments will affect others. I was shocked when I read Danielle’s blog and saw the comments people had made about her grade 1/2 students! As soon as someone comments with their opinion, others have to chime in. It is almost like mob mentality in some cases. Jon Ronson describes the case of Justine Sacco in which she made one tweet that changed her life in a matter of a 10 hour flight from England to Africa. The mob mentality took over on twitter and the masses had a hashtag trending to get her fired by the time she landed in Africa.

The power of social media and the impact of it is remarkable (not always in good ways). It is important for us to think about the role digital citizenship plays in all of this. Mike Ribble describes nine elements of digital citizenship that can help guide us in conducting ourselves appropriately online. I believe that the two most important elements in relation to everything else I have been talking about are Digital Rights & Responsibilities and Digital Security. We have to remember that although we have the right to free speech, we also have to remember that it comes with responsibility. We also have to try protect our information as we would protect the items in our house.

I don’t think there is an easy solution to cyber bullying and online shaming, but documents like Saskatchewan’s Action Plan to Address Bullying & Cyberbullying and programs such as Sasktel’s iamstronger make me feel like we are on the right track. I was also happy to find out that criminal charges were laid in the cases of Amanda Todd and Tyler Clementi. Although the criminal charges can’t bring back the life of Amanda or Tyler it shows the severity of cyberbullying. Hopefully people think twice about the consequences of cyberbullying for both the victim and the bully. In order to help prevent cyberbullying I think it is important for us to teach our children and students to be empathetic. Cindy has written a great post and included some good resources about teaching empathy using technology. The more empathy we have the less bullying there will be. Like Monica Lewinsky says, next time you are tempted to comment or join in with the mob, imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.



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