The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Rutgers, suicide and social media

October 01, 2010 | by Jon Newman

On Monday, I'm speaking at the Virginia Statewide Parent Education Coalition annual conference, the topic is all things social media including issues like privacy and new technologies.  So I'm been giving a great deal of thought to those issues this week.

This at a time when my alma mater, Rutgers University, is making national headlines for all the wrong reasons.  This week, two university students were first charged in connection with broadcasting online a private sexual encounter between two young men. One of those young men, 18-year-old freshman, Tyler Clementi, later committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

One of those charged in the incident, Dharun Ravi, was Clementi's roommate, allegedly not only captured and broadcast the encounter online, he also allegedly tweeted about it bringing it to the attention of countless others.

Those of you who know me, know of my love for my alma mater and how much it pains me and others associated with Rutgers to see this terrible incident lead national newscasts and headline papers and websites.  It comes at an especially ironic time as the university kicked off a campaign for civility on campus.

If any good can come of this, it will no doubt serve as "the" cautionary tale for the YouTube generation.  As parents, communicators and technology first adopters it is out responsibility now more than ever to teach the rights and wrongs of civility and privacy.  This is especially critical at a time when any one of us, including a 18 year olds who have been brought up with the idea that anyone can whip out their phone, shoot a picture or video and immediately post it without thought of the possible fall out.

Tyler ClementiSocial media can and is used for social good.  It also has the potential to be used for social destruction.

In every generation there are bullies, those who go out of their way to make fun, or just plain mean kids and teens who then grow up to be mean adults.  This generation finally has the technological tools at its disposal to kick mean and irresponsible to a whole new level.

We who know better need to lead by example, we need to teach them that there needs to be a filter.  Or unfortunately more people will be scarred for life, or will be given tribute in death.

Picture of Jon Newman

Jon Newman

Jon worked on-air and in management at a number of radio and TV news organizations in New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia before joining The Martin Agency. He parlayed his media background into national media placements for countless clients, and that media relations focus is still a core competency at The Hodges Partnership. As the media landscape has changed, Jon’s focus now also includes social and digital media. Read all posts by Jon Newman »

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By Colleen Miller on October 02, 2010

Thoughtful post, Jon. I am a Rutgers alum, too, and deeply concerned about this issue as well. Unfortunately Rutgers is not alone - bullying, harassment and hatred are widespread in colleges, high schools and society. I am so glad you are speaking to the parents in Va. I agree with your approach - social media and technology are not the problem, kids’ behavior is the problem.
Keep up the good work.

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By Has Social Networking Gone Too Far? | Integrated A on October 03, 2010

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