The technology-enhanced age of disrespect dawns upon us.
Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a manager, you will know that your role demands leading by example. However, the dangers of being exposed as what we are, fallible humans, are now omni-present, be it through webcams at parties, or all-too relaxed twitter posts by friends. This has existed for some time, and we need not go into the dangers of the unforgetting and unforgiving Web, or Google unearthing some of our disreputable past. With companies taking advantage of real-time postings of audio-visuals, the dangers are not only about the future past, but more about the present.
Am I worried about education? Yes! Here is why:
Stephen Downes in reaction to a post by Tony Bates argues against rules of conduct for social networks. Instead, he says, teachers should stop behaving badly, and viewers should be critical of what they view. AS IF!!!
I disagree for a number of reasons: For one thing, teachers do have a right to fun and enjoyment too. Why demand self-censorship of the potential victims? It’s like the old accusation that the sexy-dressed woman invited the rapist. Keeping a low profile isn’t necessarily protecting you from being accused of something. Secondly, people love voyeuristic news – reality TV shows prove this day-in day-out. In a small number of cases they might be even critical of what they see, but can they avoid being influenced by it? Would places like Facebook even exist if people were critical and discerning? Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, let’s not forget the intention behind posting: causing harm and embarrassment.
It’s not about the reputation of teachers alone, but students and teachers alike. It’s about a solid basis for mutual respect and trust. Very often, posting gossip-stories, sleazy photos and candid revelations follow an agenda. Remember the old school days when class-mates deliberately spread nasty rumours to suit their own purpose or to make themselves more popular. Remember the dichotomy of teachers vs students – they are not on the same side! Similar intrigues happen regularly in the work place. Forming alliances, thoughts of revenge, and bringing fellow humans into disrepute has tradition.
This is only becoming easier now! Sites like Room 110 even build a business model around it. What is often misjudged in the warnings is that it is not so much about losing the respect of some potential, but as yet unknown, future employer and therefore maybe losing a job opportunity. It is about irreparable damage to your current social fabric. Be it teacher or student, a spotless life cannot defend you if you are rightly or wrongly publically outed or ridiculed of being homosexual, impotent, a two-timer, drunkard, nazi, pedophile or other. And it is done on purpose!
The issue is:
– it reaches a much wider audience than f2f rumours
– it can’t be deleted
– it’s impossible to defend against
– the likelihood of the perpetrator being found out is less than with illegal music downloads
– intelligent software (face recognition) increases outreach and damage further
– it re-enforces simple stereotypes: girls = bitches, boys = piss-heads (see pictures)
Once a person is victim to an attack, it’s virtually irreversible. The damage is hard to contain, “not-true” statements won’t be heard.