The recent suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi raises serious questions. Why would fellow students Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei secretly tape and broadcast Mr. Clementi’s private moments? Why is such an invasion of privacy viewed as a fun activity? What is wrong with the world today?
That’s a loaded question and an issue far too complicated to be addressed here. But I ask you: have we become a voyeuristic society? Has the media desensitized us to such an extent that we believe peering into another’s private life is acceptable? Television networks and magazines get rich on our peeping Tom behavior. America’s insatiable appetite for gossip attracts viewers to shows like Big Brother House, The Biggest Loser, Dating in the Dark, The Real Housewives of New York, The Jerry Springer Show, Jersey Shore, etc., etc., etc. A publication prints a photograph of Keanu Reeves sitting alone on a park bench, and a singular moment in the man’s life suddenly emerges national news as the world wonders, is Keanu Reeves lonely? Bravo Television’s New Jersey Housewife Danielle Staub is mentioned in a memoir, and suddenly the details of her past indiscretions are plastered all over the net. The Jersey Shore’s Snooky changes her hairstyle and everybody wants to know why. Our nosy nature has turned reality television “stars” into highly paid celebrities, and transformed invasion of privacy into a social norm. Why?
America likes to watch other people’s lives unfold and fall apart. That’s why. Sensitivity, consideration, and simple kindness have been trampled by morbid curiosity and self-indulgence. Random acts of kindness are few and far between. And so we have ignorant young adults taping the private moments of an innocent college freshmen, thus creating profound and overwhelming humiliation that drove the young man to take his own life. What’s to be done about it? I don’t know. I truly don’t. It is my hope that Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for this crime of bias and this unforgivable invasion of privacy.
Let us learn from this. As parents, let us teach our children proper boundaries of respect and consideration for others. Let us reject our peeping Tom tendencies and return to a quieter, gentler nature, one that nurtures young people, and doesn’t force them off the George Washington Bridge.