Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cyber Violence Escalating

Almost three years ago I posted Cyber Violence Is Real when the world learned that Lori Drew, using a fabricated MySpace account, posed as a 16 year old boy and wrote Megan Meier, "The world would be a better place without you."

Meier responded with a message reading "You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over" and hung herself. She was 13.

In the three years since Meier's suicide it has gotten far worse. Everyone now knows about the recent suicide of 17 year old Tyler Clementi. Without his knowledge, a roommate used a web cam to record some dorm room intimacy highlighted with Twitter commentary.

CNN on Cyber Bullying

The plot thickens dramatically with Facebook, which introduces a great deal of complexity. Someone who is NOT your FB friend but knows someone who is can rather easily (often just by asking) use their FB access to see everything you have shared. I know a case where this happened, and rather personal content regarding an evening's activities taken from FB got published on a widely read blog ("enhanced" photos included) and sent out as an email blast to everyone working at a particular company. No one was fired, but certain people were mortified, and one of those in one of the photos resigned in humiliation.

Also, those who think FB friends don't care who they friend, or who they like, or what comments they post at whose pages, are naive. Your FB friends watch who you friend, and in some cases they care, in particular established, feasible, or even "in your dreams" romantic interests. If you have a partner or are dating someone even if still casually, know damned well they click on the link of anyone you friend. If the wife is an FB friend, and you friend six attractive sweeties over three days, expect a chat. I know a college student who was berated and abused by an FB friend who saw that he friended someone apparently on the former's "If you are my friend then don't you dare friend" list. Laughing? This is no joke.

A man killed his girlfriend when her FB activity led him to believe she was seeking someone else. Another man killed his ex-wife after she taunted him on FB for not paying child support. Another man killed his wife (they were separated) when she changed her marital status to single. In a similar incident, Tracey Grinhaff posted to her FB friends that she was going to leave her husband. Her husband Gary saw the post, killed her, and then shot himself. They had two children, aged 14 and four.

What is generally considered the first Twitter murder occurred last January.

Cyber Violence can occur even when no one is intending any harm. I was bloodied up pretty badly when two FB friends cheerfully posted about going to a beginning of the school year party that evening. I was a member of the group having the party! No one told me about it. I was NOT invited. WTF?!

Remember FB 101. These two KNEW I would see what they posted. They were consciously telling me about a party when I had been excluded. Not being invited hurt enough, but it just killed me that these two, people I liked, could be so cruel or at best, so unbelievably inconsiderate. I had a HORRIBLE weekend trying to make sense of it. I later learned that all thought my name was included in allstaff@domainaddr and believed I was invited and could attend if I wished. This would render what they had posted harmless. Of course, learning all of this and finding the clerical error on Monday didn't help me Friday night. Little imagination is necessary to extrapolate this scenario. Change the characters, the event, the venue, and add some guns and alcohol.

Another component of cyber violence to be noted involves the production of malicious content the very viewing of which inflicts damage. I am talking about the content deliberately designed to injure the viewer.

Those over the age of forty will remember the notion of the "snuff film," i.e. real footage of a person being killed. Decades ago, the concept seemed like a big deal and the 1978 film, Faces of Death, which showed people being killed by animals, plane crashes, executions, as well as gruesome killing of animals, shocked audiences and was banned in many countries. The 1999 film 8mm involves a pornographic snuff film and regards it as a very significant event.

In just ten years we have moved to where real footage almost as intense is being shown on national news. CNN, ABC News, etc. now show footage of American soldiers shredding Iraqis. Yes, that's different from a snuff film, but it gets murky. One could argue that the whole world watching Neda die in raw cell phone video helped the cause that had her in the street.

That said, there is definitely a line, and on the other side I hurt myself watching the unedited video of what preceded the photo to the right. Done with a small knife, Eugene Armstrong's beheading took three minutes. Okay, I was an idiot, but the key distinction is that YOU DON'T KNOW, not really, what is on the other side of that click. I was trembling, dizzy, nauseas, shaken, and messed in the head for days, no exaggeration. I was INJURED.

I don't think the raw video I saw is available anymore (good), but real footage of beheadings is easy to find with a simple search. Got kids?

I suspect all of this will get worse before it gets better. I wish I could say it surprises me that there are websites devoted to such material. Click at own risk over to JustSickShit.com, but consider yourself warned. I didn't click on anything over there, including the footage from Bolivia of dogs strung up on wires and tortured to death.

4 Comments:

Blogger The Navigator said...

Thought provoking. I don't really do Facebook, and cannot imagine being intertwined with others in the way that you describe.

It sounds like too much data with too little boundaries. A woman posts on Facebook that she is leaving her husband, when her husband is one of the friends who can read it?!!

While it may have been innocent, what happened to you is the most interesting part of your post, in my opinion. That is fascinating.

Why didn't you call them and ask WTF?

10/05/2010 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh. Yeah, I agree with Nav, and what happened to you is really interesting. You thought they were beating you up, and you would be right if you weren't invited, and they knew it. That would have been very cruel.

Although in your case it turned out to be an innocent error mixed with misunderstanding, I'll bet there are plenty of cases where cruelty of a similar kind happens, especially in the high school and college crowds.

It's like managing a set of eavesdroppers where everyone has a different set of listeners and listenees. I am too old to get into it, and I only have a small number of friends. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have 500 friends. I guess they just ignore 98% of their feeds, or do they spend all day on FB?

Regarding the sick shit, Jesus. I went to the site, but like you, I didn't click on anything.

10/05/2010 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Observer said...

x4mr,
Aren't you a bit old for FB? Your daughter graduated from Stanford last spring, so you have to be pushing 45 or 50. You're out of your element, dude.

Nav asks a great question. When those people posted about a party, why the F didn't you call them and ask what was going on?!

Good post. It's an interesting illustration of an intelligent 50 year old trying to grasp all of the FB dynamics. To your credit, most FB people your age are playing Mafia game and collecting farm animals.

10/05/2010 6:35 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Ha! Observer. If I start collecting farm animals, please have me shot.

With hindsight, yes, I should have called one of them, but in the moment, you assume what has happened is intentional, not an error, and pride steps in. I'm supposed to call, in pain, the very people that hurt me?

I'm guessing FB users with hundreds and hundreds of friends quickly classify them along an "attention spectrum" of importance from "no attention at all" to "read very carefully."

They scan their news feeds, skipping most entries completely and reading the rest with the level of attention warranted by their rank on the attention spectrum.

10/05/2010 7:38 PM  

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