Yesterday, there was an example of the great power of celebrity and social media (the greatest power?) exercising small responsibility.
The story about Trayvon Martin being shot to death by a member of a neighborhood watch patrol is well know. I noticed this morning an article about Spike Lee. He retweeted the address of a family “reported” to be the parents of Mr. Zimmerman, the man who shot Mr. Martin.
Mr. Lee is an internationally known personality. He has great power. He should take great responsibility for his statements. IMHO, retweeting what someone else said on this subject is being an electronic gossip. If he was not in possession of “the facts” he should stay silent. To his credit, Mr. Lee has apologized and paid for the inconvenience to the Zimmermans demonstrating he understands the principle of responsibility. I’m optimisitic he will learn what great responsibility is.
On a similar note, I think President Obama should have considered his great power when asked to comment on this tragedy. No comment would be reasonable from the President of the United States in a local case still under review and investigation by the Justice Department. Instead, bowing to pressure to express his opinion on such matters, he made some comments. He has weighed in on local issues before and it has not worked well for him, lest we forget the “beer in the rose garden” apology and comments about Occupy Wall Street.
Finally, social media is “Great Power” and it transfers to all who use it. The most powerful celebrities and public figures should be examples of how “Great Responsibility” is exercised so the least of us can benefit from their lessons.
I have hope that the visibility created by social media is helping people make more responsible choices. We’re definitely not all the way there yet, but as a society we’re perhaps making baby steps.
Example 1: What helped tame bad behavior on Spring Break? Fear of your drunken photos/videos ending up all over the internet. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/us/spring-break-gets-tamer-as-world-watches-online.html?_r=1)
Example 2: There has recently been publicly shaming of people who posted racist reactions to Hunger Games characters. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/26/hunger-games-racist-tweets-rue_n_1380377.html) I imagine it was quite a shock to those people who assumed they were posting thoughts to a small cadre of followers to see their comments blasted all over the world, and I also imagine they’ll be able to find that self-censor button a little bit more easily in the future.
There are definitely plenty of examples of bad choices made online every day, but I do see some reasons to hope for increased responsibility.
As you point out there are “lessons” folks learn about the power of social media when then don’t exercise that power responsibility. I think people forget that twitter, blogging, etc. are “public” commentary, not private. As I found out in my adolesence, we do have freedom of speech, but that freedom doesn’t mean others won’t judge you for what you say and act accordingly.