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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Tragedy reminds us to choose kindness

University students across the nation are reeling at the news that a Rutgers University freshman apparently committed suicide Sept. 22 after his roommate and a friend broadcast an intimate moment on the Internet.

It may have started with a nearly ubiquitous college freshman experience — one roommate asks the other to stay away from the room for a few hours; no more explanation is necessary.

But instead of complying with this request and going ahead with his evening, Rutgers freshman Dharun Ravi chose to announce via Twitter: “”Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”” His roommate, fellow freshman Tyler Clementi, had his private moments live-streamed on the Internet.

Two nights later, Ravi attempted to repeat the egregious breach of his roommate’s privacy. He tweeted, “”Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.””

The next evening, two witnesses saw a young man jump off the George Washington Bridge to his death. A wallet at the scene held Clementi’s identification.

Clementi’s Facebook status that evening read, “”Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.””

Much has been made of the subject of cyber-bullying in recent years. Cases from Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old high school student who committed suicide after being relentlessly harassed online and in person by classmates, to Megan Meier, a 13-year-old who also killed herself after a classmate’s mother posing as a child bullied her via Myspace, have shown that cyber-bullies are just as real and threatening, if not more so, than traditional schoolyard bullies.

The rallying cries that “”the Internet is making kids mean”” have already begun building in the wake of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death. Parents, experts and hordes of online commentators have eviscerated the other students involved as heartless monsters and blame the anonymity and ubiquity of Internet access, and young people’s trust in it, for the uptick in cases like Clementi’s.

But blaming the Internet gives people like Ravi and his friend Molly Wei too much credit.

It’s time for “”Generation Me”” to take some responsibility. If we’re mean, it’s not because our devices, or our parents, or our overwhelming entitlement made us that way. It’s because we let ourselves get jaded and bored, and meanness crept in to take the place of passion and interest.

Being jaded — that’s easy. Pulling pranks like the one that may have driven Tyler Clementi to his death — that’s incredibly easy. Ravi and Wei almost certainly didn’t set up the webcam to spy on Clementi with the idea that they might set such horrific events in motion. Probably, they didn’t have any ideas at all, other than, “”I’m bored. This might be briefly entertaining.””

It’s not the Internet’s fault, and the more adults blame the Internet for young people’s disturbing behavior, the more those young people will let themselves off the hook.

If a person does something cruel to another person, that’s not the fault of society or their Blackberry. It’s on them. If you hurt someone with your words or actions, intentionally or otherwise, it’s on you.

There are two choices: petty cruelty, which could at any minute spin out of control, or kindness. It’s that simple.

Today, in honor of Tyler Clementi and all the others whose names we don’t know, make the choice to be kind.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Heather Price-Wright, Luke Money, Colin Darland and Steven Kwan. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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