Creating Responsible Netizens

The more things change, the more they stay the same. December 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — jessica @ 4:53 am

So you might ask, after all this talk, how do I truly feel about the Internet? I am obviously not one of those old farts who frowns upon the use of “lol” and “ttyl” nor am I the person with 50 tumblr reblogs a day. Many scholars have raised concerns about the Internet having detrimental effects of our generation. From the new-fangled oral, written practices to the diminishing importance of physical proximity, cyberspace has truly reshaped communication, language, and relationships forever.

In many ways, online innovation has enlarged the generation gap (one reason why Dean and I felt the urge to create a blog like this). For example, I know my parents use email as their all-purpose communication resource, from keeping in touch with old pals to forwarding jokes or poignant stories. On the other hand, my Gmail inbox is a collection of emails from professors and other adults, from the clubs announcement lists, from my online shopping sites, and from messages with large attachments. For “social” purposes, I am a die-hard Facebooker, using it keep in contact with high school buddies, keeping my profile up-to-date, posting (hopefully) witty statuses and cute photos, and commenting (i.e. creeping) on my friends’ posts.

Although our older counterparts may adopt many of the same technologies as we do, it is evident that teenagers utilize the Internet on a completely different level. Being the capricious, eager young souls that we are, it is only natural that we jump on the ideas of Zuckerberg, moot, and other (young, if I might add) Internet rockstars. The amount of time we spend online is unparalleled by any other recreational activity. Especially with the Internet at our fingertips with the latest innovations in smartphones, it is  safe to say that, though certain websites may rise and fall, the Internet is here to stay. However, staying informed about cyber-legislation is critical to protecting yourself and protecting other Netizens. I’d like to equate cyberspace to the automobile. Both make our lives a lot easier as well as bring people closer, but at the expense of other necessities (be it fresh air and safe roads or privacy and free speech). As stated by dana boyd, “The key is for adults, and society more broadly, to engage with these issues and help guide teens in making healthy decisions that allow them to leverage social media in positive ways as part of their everyday lives.”

The Internet does not have to be Big Brother (see cartoon for lolz). Nor does it have to be a completed kid-friendly wholesome environment. It is and will be a strange, ever changing world. Yet, amidst all the gray area in cyberspace, it is important to remember that behind every tweet, behind every anonymous blog, behind every silly avatar is a person. After all, cyberspace is a creation of humans, by humans, for humans.   


A Recent Case Study of Teen Tweeting December 3, 2011

Filed under: jessica,Uncategorized — jessica @ 6:33 am

I remember the innocent days when “tweet” brought to mind images of chirping birds. Now “tweet” paints a picture of light blue logo and 140 character remarks.

With huge popularity of social networking amongst young people, it is only natural that microbloggers also encompass a young demographic. However, with all this it is important for users to remain cognizant of any and all repercussions for online speech.

Case in point: In mid-November 2011, a teenage girl posted a less-than-flattering tweet about Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. She was in attendance at a Youth in Government program, and during the governor’s presentation, she posted (as a joke) “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” Keep in mind that Emma Sullivan (the girl in question) had only 65 Twitter followers at this time and Governor Brownback is currently controversially supporting a veto for the state’s art commission budget.

As swiftly as Sullivan’s fingers typed in her tweet, Emma’s school administrators received upset calls from the governor’s office. Shawnee Mission East administrators reprimanded Emma and demanded that she write an apology to Gov. Brownback for her offensive comment. In essence, they were saying that her post was highly disrespectful and arguably humiliating for the school and Youth in Government program she was representing.

But can she legally be forced to write an apology as punishment?

Sullivan’s family clearly thinks not; they have taken this story to the media, creating a free speech martyr out of their daughter. On November 27, 2011, Emma Sullivan announced that she would, in fact, not be apologizing at all.

You would expect a First Amendment free speech/school speech/online speech battle of epic proportions to erupt, right?

Interestingly enough, Gov. Brownback’s office soon issued an apology for this whole incident, citing it as an “overreaction.” Indeed, that maneuver was a very diplomatic way to put this in the past before it actually became national headlines; however, in terms of clarifying cyberlaw, this illustrates a thoroughly wasted opportunity.

In our culture where puerile rudeness can be celebrated and anyone can change the world in 140 characters or less, it is important to not lose sight of the pillars of free speech. Excessive regulation and thin skin only stifles debate. Clearly articulated online dialogue can and will serve to foster a more multi-faceted context to communicate. (please note, I am by no means saying that Emma Sullivan was “clear” or “articulate”)

So, let’s be mindful of what we say, but not let extreme civility impede our message from spreading. #gettingoffmysoapbox