Mobile Media; Are We Shaping It or is It Shaping Us
By the end of 2011 an estimated 50% of the people in the United States will own and utilize smart phones[i], this shift in the mobile population proves the majority of people are ready for the next technological advancement. Although the majority of people are willing to make this move, does that mean they are responsible enough? Can too much freedom present issues for younger generations? Is the ability to accurately track the usage and buying trends of a group of people opening the door to potential uproar? It appears we are at a point in our technological growth has outpaced our ability to exercise restraint and information decimation trumps the movement to see everyone as equals. Having access to anyone anywhere is both a blessing and a curse; it is a curse if you have a bully in your life. If you are a child in school, what once was a sanctuary can become another place for a bully to strike by using the internet to do it or by posting their various ways of harassing them on the internet.
With this mobile media revolution we are seeing the ever increasing utilization of pictures, text, and video through our cell phones, digital cameras, and laptops; but is this “quick to produce media” capability actually skewing our view on what is right and wrong? Case in point, a local story making national headlines is a case of bullying done by six boys. The six boys kidnapped, beat, and strung up a thirteen year old boy on his way to school one morning and posted seven minutes of the ordeal on youtube.com[ii] . While we all agree that bullying is something that every generation has dealt with; we can also see how the attacks have morphed and grown from simple shoves in the hallway and classroom gossip, to cyber bullying using social media and posting heinous acts online such as this.
Before this mobile media explosion, the victims of bullies only had to deal with the bullies when they attended the class the person bully with the vendetta against them attended; now with text, twitter, email, facebook, and youtube a harmless teasing can easily become something deadly. A recent example of a bullying case gone wrong involves a college student having his sexual trysts broadcasted online without his knowledge.[iii] The Rutgers student had yet to come out to his family, this invasion of privacy was more than he could bear. The internet is a wonderful way to fast track information to massive amounts of people, but it can also be used as weapon; the more people who could have potentially received information you wanted to keep a secret, the worse the consequences of leaking said private information.
Since we now live in the digital world, it is easier to gather information for marketing purposes. While it is as simple as “market research” for companies wanting to reach out to consumer, it can also be warped into something sinister if a select portion of a population suffers a loss of access or information. A recent report stated a large percent of the African American community used Blackberries as their phone of choice. A large percentage of the African American community banded together on Twitter to discuss topics related to the community, the report stating the phone usage trends came out a week prior to Twitter blocking a popular Blackberry application. Once the word hit the application was blocked, the African American community saw this as an attack on its intercommunication via Twitter.[iv]
Something as small as information gathering and harmless communication can easily become something dark or be misconstrued. Maybe instant information gratification is not such a good thing. The American culture is no longer fine tuned to start revolutions or evoke social change. We take for granted the power we wield in our mobile media devices and would rather take the time to promote negative actions over creating movements or broadening our horizons. Until the social construct of our country evolves into one with standards and purpose, mobile media will be treated as a weapon instead of a learning tool.
Some of the steps taken in order to deter bullies included prosecution and public humiliation, but by the time these steps have been taken the damage has been done; the humiliation of both the victim and the bully lives on forever via the internet long after the trial and enforcement of the sentence. My suggestion would be to create a program targeting kids in middle school and high school and informing them of the high price of their digital dirt. Colleges and employers can look up information on them that could have lasting and long term effects. As technology advances, we could possibly enter a age where your face could be your identity and not your name. If we prepare children for the next phase in technology and show them the consequences of their actions, it could be a deterrent. As far as bullying goes, we have had bullies since the beginning of time so that will never end. If we provide less incentive to bullying other children using the internet; by taking away their ability to share videos and pictures of such actions, we could reduce the number of incidents.