Today’s Historian

March 5, 2010

In today’s society, people’s lives have been influenced and documented by a technologically based historian…the Internet. This has proven to be both a wonderful invention as well as one that we have come to question.

During our Media Issues course this week, we have discussed several topics that Daniel Solove brings to light in his book entitled “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet.” A subject that I find most intriguing is how a public realm can be used to punish someone and, at the same time, be created with confidence within a private area.

We have seen the overflow of information, and the overwhelming amount of times in which a person is publically “punished” by today’s norm police. Many times the people who are criticized for their behavior or style are celebrities, but there are more and more regular people being covered and criticized online.

We have seen this occur several times with YouTube clips that capture moments like the ones of the Star Wars Kid or the person that was dancing to the Numa Numa song. Even Solove gave us the example of the “dog poop girl” whose reputation was changed dramatically not only in her home country of South Korea but across the globe because of the public’s use of the Internet.

The public humiliation has been distributed not only through videos but blogs as well. This display of anger or bullying has been justified as something they deserve because they acted a certain way in a public space that goes against what we consider right or does not adhere to our societies norms. But do they really deserve this harsh a punishment? Are our online responses the second wrong that does not make a right? Or are we practicing freedom of speech a little too freely?

It seems as if people are much more willing to express their dislike for something if it is through their computer in the comfort of their homes. Obviously they find it more freeing, which might be due to their ability to be anonymous. This can be a double-edged sword because it’s great that people can express their beliefs and feelings in a public area online (as I am on my own blog), but it can also have consequences.

This reminds me not only of things that have happened on social networking sites or blogs, but of Juicy Campus. This site was a concern for many universities a few years ago, not to mention several students. It allowed anyone and everyone to post anything about you whether it was true or not. This influenced their reputation and even employment.

Although it seems that adults are the ones grappling with these issues, we can’t forget that our digital natives are now mainly youth. It was stated in class that even 7 year olds have blogs and are already beginning to document their lives with the help of the Internet. There is a positive side to this because they are learning how to utilize the Internet to their advantage, however they also must be warned of what repercussions can come from what they post. Why? Because the Internet truly can be a cruel historian.