The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

EDITORIAL: Clementi is reality check for web use

“It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt,” as the saying goes.

The same is true for the virtual world of social networking.

Last week, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student, jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge following an online harassment incident. Clementi’s roommate filmed him having sex with another male student, and then streamed the video to the web. Clementi’s private and intimate experiences were strewn across the web, for anyone and everyone to see.

The line was crossed. And as portrayed by Clementi’s suicide, the virtual world has substantial real life consequences.

Though the Internet may seem like a social networker’s paradise, a forum for anonymous postings and unclaimed words, it must be handled with care and responsibility.

We have been entrusted to a galaxy of possibilities, but we need to use social networking with the same respect we use anything else entrusted to us.

The broadcast of Clementi’s private experiences is not the first time online resources have been used to harass others.

Two years ago, JuicyCampus, a gossip website, was in its prime. Rumors and ridicule ricocheted from computer to computer, and JuicyCampus victims were spotlighted not only online, but around campus, too.

A junior at Marquette, who wishes to remain unnamed, was the target of JuicyCampus harassment during her freshman year.

“It’s really tough to deal with,” she said.

And because these websites are public domains, anyone can see what has been posted.

“You never know when you meet a new person if they have seen or heard the ridiculous things that have been said about you,” she said.

Although JuicyCampus shut down in Feb. 2009, a new gossip forum is on the rise: The website allows users to anonymously post up to 160 characters of hurtful accusations.

One step forward and two steps back. It’s disappointing a JuicyCampus clone was created.

In last week’s Tribune article about Burnbook, students expressed concern about the new gossip site, saying anonymity was its “key factor.”

Currently, there are no members on the site’s Marquette network. Let’s keep it that way.

Earlier this year, University of Michigan elected an openly gay student body president, Chris Armstrong. In response, Andrew Shirvell, a Michigan assistant attorney general and University of Michigan alum, created a blog to monitor the student’s every move.

The blog included information on Armstrong’s dating life, video outside his family’s home and graphics mocking Armstrong’s gay lifestyle.

In January, a Massachusetts teen, Phoebe Prince, committed suicide following bullying and tormenting she received in her high school’s hallways. After her death, the bullies proceeded to mock her on Facebook.

Social networking sites are not outlets for harassment and cruel behavior. They should be used for exactly what they are: networking. Use Facebook to communicate and stay in touch with friends. Use Twitter to keep up with news and trends. These public forums should not be used as means to publicize personal quarrels and hide behind anonymity. Social networking sites need to be used responsibly and respectfully.

It’s unfortunate this is even an issue at all and that we need to be reminded of the potentially harmful effects our online actions can have.

Clementi is another unfortunate example of fun and games resulting in hurt. But hopefully it provides the reality check we all need to change how we think about our use of the web and social networks.

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