Thursday, October 7, 2010

GOING VIRAL


Recently there has been a tragedy in the news about the young man whose homosexual act was captured by a “friend” on video and broadcast on the Internet. He was 18 and the horror of that incredibly private moment going around the world made him take his young life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. His suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. He is gone and his family is devastated.

My cousin recently committed suicide. We don't know why she did this but she chose the wrong answer and time would have proven that. Suicide is something that does not allow a "do over."

This young man's act has started a campaign by the gay community to post series of videos basically saying “Its all right. You are all right. You have your future ahead of you. This will mean nothing in years to come.” Etc.

Perhaps we should follow example and do this also for non-gay teens who are also victims of cyber exposure. Teen years are tenuous enough with the intense desire to be accepted and seeking peer approval. In my day, the biggest fear was the local gossip. The gossip who whispered half or often no truths from ear to ear was the only threat.

Now they could spread juicy stories in a relative hurry, but the Internet has dwarfed the local full-time gossip's capabilities. Now your momentary fall from grace can receive hundreds of thousands of hits from around the globe.

I told the story about the time of stuffing my bra in high school with toilet paper and was“outed” at a pep rally bonfire. I can remember thinking at that moment my life was ruined but actually in a few days, that story was forgotten when our weak team actually won the game and I became yesterday's news. That was all it took to steady my crashing world---a little time.

That is what today's youth needs to realize but unfortunately, when videos go viral, millions know and things don't die down quickly so it is hard to subscribe to the, “this too shall pass” theory. What if someone had videoed my episode and it had gone viral? Sure it was funny in retrospect but not to me at that time.

As I became an adult, I adopted the one month,1 year and 5 year rule. “How will this affect my life in a month?” If it is really bad, one or five year rule can be invoked. With that rule, all problems do fade to their proper perspective. Even "viral" has a shelf life. Most things will not be remembered in a month, year or worst case, five years. In my case, the stuffed bra was old news after the week end. Teens however (and I so remember) live by the next hour rule.

Wouldn't it be nice for parents and grandparents to sit down their 13 year old and tell them the most embarrassing thing that occurred to them--- hopefully it wasn't illegal but that could be a learning tool also. To let them know that all of us have moments we are not proud of but they are just “moments.” Life does go on and those long ago acts in no way define us and only become humorous stories in the future.

It was like when I was first diagnosed with Cancer and met my first healthy looking Cancer survivor. My light bulb moment was--”Ok, this really can be done and I can do this. They did it.” Example is always the best teacher.

To hear a story from your lips that seems to have teen-crushing abilities, and for that story to come from a successful adult, could go a long way.

Our technology has far out paced our slowly changing social mores. We don't yet have rules for acceptable behavior on the Internet and we are just slowly developing laws that will punish offenders. Sexting and cyber bullying have ruined many a family when a child takes their own life rather than face the censure of their peers.

Should we just sit back and shake our heads while tisk, tisking? Gosh, I hope not. We have too much to offer. It's time to share.

29 comments :

  1. Patti, what a great idea and beautifully said. You are so right. We old folks can show that we survived great embarrassments when we were young and went on to live through additional embarrassments to have fulfilling lives.

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  2. What a beautiful post. We've all lived thru embarrassments and this is a wonderful way to communicate with our younger friends/relatives. I really like that one/five year rule...it would work!

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  3. Patti, I keep thinking about your post. it just occured to me that this type of instruction for young people is yet another reason for us old folks to share our stories.

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  4. This is why at old age of 73 dislike FaceBook, My Space, even Twitter. It only take a few careless words to kill a spirit.

    We use to sing a hymn about angry words, but it had one verse more attune to careless words I liked.

    Love is much too pure and holy,
    Friendship is too sacred far,
    For a moment’s reckless folly,
    Thus to desolate and mar.

    The whole song is here:

    http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/n/angrywor.htm

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  5. Meaningful post, Patti,
    You're right, no rehearsal for suicide. You can't ever "take it again, from the top." Do you want to know how much you forget embarrassing moments...... I'm so old I can't recall a single EM and there must have been countless. Feels like my life was always perfect. Ha I must have missed your TP stuffing post. Have to look it up. Wonderful day to you.

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  6. A very tender--and valuable-- message, Patti.

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  7. Great post. But do you realize how many people, STILL, with all the learning abilities and etc we have, are still homophobic? If only people would think what their actions might cause another person, or try to put themselves in that person's shoes. But too many people don't take the time to stop and think.

    Our one daughter, never dated, and was always rather backward and timid. I never thought too much about it. Our son asked his Father, if she could be gay. That upset me for him to think that. But then one day when she met this one young woman and started seeing her, she was in her thirties at the time, she told me. Then I felt so bad, for all the heartache she must have gone through in her growing up years and no one to talk to. We love this daughter so much. Two of her sisters, a brother-in-law, our 10 year old granddaughter and her partner's Mother, plus two of her partners friends from Noble Circle (A cancer support group), all went to a dance that Pflag held this past Sat. night. The proceeds go towards a $2,000.00 scholarship for a deserving student. Our daughter and her partner danced and won second place. Last year they won first place. And I remember last year, while we were waiting for them to change back into their street clothes, these two men came up and were talking to us and telling us how wonderful they thought it was that their family came out in support of them. I said, she's still our same daughter, nothing has changed, now we just know her sexual preference. Deep down in my heart, I think there is just a tiny bit more love for her, because like I said, I now know what a hard time she must have had growing up and not talking to any family member about it. But I do know, some parents disown their child when
    they find out, and that is so wrong.

    Our daughter and her partner have been together 14 years now.

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  8. Patti, you are a jewel. There are so many venues in which adults can and should share "how they survived being a teenager and got grown". For sure, we cannot just say oh how said and leave it at that. In our most affluent high school here there was just a rally and gathering for the parents, students and teachers on bullying. 9 students in that school alone thus far this school year (and we're only in October????) have taken the permanent solution to a temporary problem, suicide. It is epidemic. Thanks for a sterling post. The Olde Bagg

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  9. You are so right, Patti. We all need to tell our "most embarrassing moment" stories. But also we need to instill a sense of civility in this age of instant watching of everything cyber-connected. Bullying used to be a horrible thing that took place on small school playgrounds. Now bullying takes place on playgrounds as big as the world, with as many eyes watching as are so inclined. It's a nightmare scenario.

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  10. This is so well written, thanks for sharing.

    I don't understand why people do such terrible things as bullying, teasing etc. I also don't understand why people continue to get online or in chat rooms if someone is bullying them online. I was made fun of over and over at school and in my first marriage. It is awful.

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  11. Oh I do agree with every word you said. I fear our young people have become the victims of the media,the internet and tchnology. Too bad, as all those things can be used for so much that's positive, why is it being used for so much bad?

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  12. Fabulous post, Patti.... Kids today have a much harder time than we did... And it's because of the internet and cellphones, cameras, etc... There is no privacy left at all... That's just so sad.

    I am aware of that young man --and I'm sure his family are just devastated. What we need today is communication in families.. I wonder if that boy's family even knew he was gay... Probably not. Kids need someone to trust and someone to talk to...

    Many times when kids commit suicide --it's because they don't have anyone to listen to them and to talk to them. Parents are SO busy --and kids get lost in the shuffle. So many times, when something happens --such as bullying--I am shocked to hear that the parents didn't even know that their child was being bullied. Alot of this needs to go back to good communication between child and parent.

    Great post, Patti...
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  13. marciamayo,
    Thank you so much. I rememeber some of the dearest times with my mother and grandmother involved their sharing embarassing moments.
    Like you said, it would make those moments have meanin and function.

    turquoisemoon,
    Thank you. It is true that we all have some blush moments to share. Wish I had learned the year rules a little earlier.

    Nitwit,
    Me too, I keep refusing to join any of those.
    The words for that hymn are powerful. Wouldn't hurt to start homeroom with that song each day.

    Manzanita,
    Proof positive that these things do not have a shelf life. Or perhaps you led a perfect life after all.

    Olga,
    Thank you, that young man and all the children we are losing today to suicide, really struck a nerve with me.

    Patty,
    What a personal and powerful story about your daughter. You are right, we have progressed but not enough for those youngsters who feel the taunts of homophobia.
    I love your attitude and am just glad she is now living the live that makes her happy. You are blessed as a family.

    Linda in NM
    Linda, I am totally stunned at the enormous number of children in your area who have chosen the permanent solution. One is too many, nine is abysmal. Thank goodness the community is at last moving towards a solution.

    robin,
    You are so right. Privacy is a lost art in todays world. I agree, it is nightmare and I really feel for the kids of today.

    Miss Dazey,
    I am so sorry you had to be subjected to bullying. You personally know how hurtful it can be. Somehow we need to make kids realize how damaging bullying can be.

    Linda,
    Kids, well actually everyone today, are so exposed by all the toys we have for communicating. They have the power but haven't the foggiest how to use it. We need lessons.

    Betsy,
    Probably not or he might not have felt the need to do something so drastic.
    I agree. We need to do less electronic communicating with strangers and more face to face with family.Could start with something as simple as family dinners.

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  14. I like your one month-one year-five years rule. I will have to remember it although, quite honestly, it hardly ever bothers me what people might think about me nowadays.

    Hey, fellow cancer survivor, greetings!

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  15. What a wonderful post. We should do everything we can think of that might help young people know about the embarrassing moments and how they will pass. I don't think there is enough communication between a lot if not most parents and their children now days. It breaks my heart to hear that a young person has taken their life for any reason. I really do enjoy all your posts. Hugs

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  16. This is a post filled with wisdom. I never believed that if I were to tell a child one of my mistakes that they would in kind follow my bad example. I love the 1 week 1 month 1-5 year idea. That makes so much sense.
    Great post!

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  17. time to share; really share what a good idea. and I like the month, year and five year rule, that can apply to so many situations for me. thanks Patti.

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  18. We all make mistakes, but I don't want to talk about mine, not on internet that is. Only when I was speaking with a friend, who could see my face. Great post Patti. I hope that this will comfort young people, but also old ones.

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  19. Patti, you are a wise and eloquent woman. Your post should be required reading for young people, beginning in elementary school and repeated every year.

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  20. Such a tragedy...and you are so right!! Kids need to know that "This too shall pass..." I like your rule!! Wish more people could read this and take it to heart!!! So many lives would be saved!!! Thank you...it's a good reminder for adults as well!!! Love, Janine XO

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  21. Oh Patti, that's a great idea. My best friend took her life a few years ago and it has haunted me that she felt so alone that she couldn't give time a chance. Kids especially don't have enough life experience to know that "this too shall pass". Life is too precious to throw away!

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  22. Friko,
    Greetings back at ya C S. Sadly, we aren't a very exclusive club but I have yet to meet a member I didn't like.

    Mumsy,
    My heart breaks also. I think you are right about communication. Unless you text, you probably won't reach a teen. I'm all for sit down family dinners-toys aside.

    Grayquill,
    Think you are so right. Sharing doesn't mean condoning, wish more people thought that way. Thanks so much.

    Linda Starr,
    I really do believe our most wonderful and free wonder drug is time.

    Reader Wil,
    I agree that the sharing should be face to face. That would have the most meaning.We just have to reach out.

    Pat Arkansas,
    Thank you so much Pat. Sometimes I care too much. I do believe our schools could do seminars on simple kindness and it would maybe help.

    Sniffles and Smiles,
    Thanks Janine. Often the simplest thing--time--is all we need to put things into proper perspective. It really does work.

    Olkhdan,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Too often with suicide, we can't help but think surely there was something we could have done if only we had known.
    You are right, "we know this too shall pass," but kids don't.

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  23. Patti, you are a very clear, focused thinker! My husband's last words to my daughter when she was a teen and getting ready to spend time away from home:

    "Don't sacrifice the permanent on the alter of the immediate."

    He's a thinker, too!

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  24. Deb,
    I love how your husband thinks. That is great advice.

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  25. The thing that is so very sad and really terrible about what happened to this young man is---He do anything bad..It was how he viewed being "outed" and the fact that there is STILL such a lot of hatred surrounding Homosexuality, THAT is what I find so shocking.
    Being accepted for who you are is such an important part of our world and there is so much lack of acceptance regarding Homosexialuty--STILL....That is what is the saddest thing about all this, to me. And this is not an isolated case, unfortunately.

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  26. What a stupid tragedy. With just a little compassion and decency and common sense and good manners it could have been avoided, if not this once then thousands and thousands of times.

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  27. OOLOH
    No Naomi, it is not even close to being isolated. It is almost epidemic. I do believe our once forward motion is now going backwards. Check our Linda in New Mexico's comment. Frightening.

    Robert,
    Good to hear from you Robert. I lost your site and others when I accidently wiped out my favorites list a while back. Thanks, got you now.
    Yes, somehow HATE has become fashionable. Lord, how did that happen? I refer you also to Linda in New Mexico's comment.

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  28. Patti, your post is well done as ever. I have tried to live by the 1yr-5yr plan and it does work.
    We had a recent bout of bullying of one of my granddaughter's in high school. Thank goodness she is a well grounded young girl, but it was still very nasty. The kicker was that the bullying girls got the wrong cell number and sent their horrible messages to her dad's (my SIL) phone. My daughter got hold of it and posted a very well written retort on her facebook (with no names mentioned). Everyone in the family's large circle of friends knew what those girls had done, and it stopped but good.
    We must communicate with our kids, face to face, we must participate in their lives, we must.

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  29. Brighid,
    Oh my, that story could have ended so differently. Your level headed grandaughter and caring parents averted a miserable situation.
    I am 71 now and am certain I will not live long enough to understand what makes people need to bully.
    You are so right. Communication is so vital in all phases of our life. Seems we text and instant message today yet rarely connect.
    You did everything right raising your children from how they handled the situation.

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