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In a lecture at Temple Sinai in Roslyn Heights, L.I., on the day after the Boston bombings, former President Bill Clinton noted that the 21st-century world of the Internet and social media is “a mixed blessing.”
His words struck a nerve.
The Internet, he said, has helped us become more sensitive to human suffering around the world. He noted the oppression of women in parts of the Middle East and the lack of proper health care in developing nations.
“Today,” he said, “we know about such things. This has been going on a long time, and now we are aware and people are organized and vocal and energetic and strides are being made that weren’t there before. There are a lot of encouraging things going on.”
While he was speaking, social media was playing a major role in the pursuit of the two bombing suspects. Within moments after the FBI released their photographs, the images were popping up on millions of cellphones.
“Wherever [the bombs] came from,” Clinton said, “it showed you that in a world full of the Internet and social media and unprecedented movement of people and money and ideas, whether we like it or not, our futures are bound up together.”
But social media is equally capable of fostering hatred and intolerance. In Queens, there have been a growing number of incidents in which teenagers are using their cellphones to record videos of crowd beatings. There are even sites on the Internet where these videos are posted.
Like a modern-day Clockwork Orange, the violence has become the new entertainment.
Cellphone videos have also been used to torment and humiliate. On more than one occasion they have driven victims to commit suicide.
Like Clinton said, the information explosion brought on by the Internet is a “mixed blessing.”
Society needs to explore ways to ensure that the new technology and social media are used responsibly. Kids must understand the tremendous pain they can cause just by hitting send. Parents who buy these expensive smartphones and pay monthly fees should make an effort to monitor how they are being used.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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