Submitted by Nancy Truesdell on behalf of a student in fulfillment of a Judicial Board sanction
Dear Fellow Lawrentians, According to a poll taken by techcrunch.com way back in 2004, 85 percent of college students have a Facebook account. As an avid Facebook user myself, I know the drill: You get back from class, sit down at your trusty laptop, log on, and the Facebooking begins. Status updates, new wall posts, picture tags, video tags, group invitations, cause invitations, new messages, and who can forget Ninjas vs. Pirates? Another fun Facebook feature frequented by Facebook fiends is good old fashioned Facebook stalking. Interestingly enough, the makers of Facebook have made it incredibly easy to peek at your friends’ conversations with other friends and look through every single picture tagged of them since high school. All told, many hours can be spent perusing the nearly indefinite pages to be found on Facebook. One of the main purposes of Facebook is to connect and stay connected with friends. Events captured in real life are filmed or photographed, and then posted on Facebook to share with everyone. These pictures and videos can record road trips, vacations, holidays or just friends hanging out and doing absolutely nothing. No matter what the back story, Facebookers post, peruse and comment. The most devout users check for these updates religiously to know just what’s going on with everyone. Facebookers expect information and entertainment while logged on, and most of the time, they find it. Unfortunately, there is little in terms of censorship on Facebook. It is mostly up to the discretion of the poster to be mindful about the potential after-effects of an uploaded video or uploaded pictures. What can be a seemingly funny and/or innocent picture can have unintended negative consequences. The age group that most uses Facebook suffers from a developmental caveat responsible for some of the most devastating and tragic events common in young people. I am referring to the not yet fully developed prefrontal cortex of the human brain, which is responsible for judgment. It is thought by many to be the reason for behavior like drunk driving and drug abuse. This lack of judgment can be involved when uploading various forms of media to Facebook. A picture of a college freshman passed out drunk on a beer-stained couch with phallic images etched on his face in red Sharpie may seem hilarious at the time it was photographed. But when the freshman wakes up the following afternoon hung over and covered with vomit and goes to check his Facebook account, he may be less than pleased to find out that the latest bit in his news feed is a picture of himself with his tongue hanging out, his face adorned with red penises. He may be even less pleased to see a status update by his grandmother posted earlier that day, reminding him of the Facebook friends he would prefer to not see such a picture, which may include professors or family. All in all, it would not be a fun way to spend the morning. Luckily, a person can un-tag him or herself from such a photo or video; however, it was already posted and tagged, and people have been able to see it, even if only for a few hours. The aforementioned example is a bit extreme, and most likely not common on the Lawrence campus; however, it exhibits the ability, or lack thereof, of a young person to judge a situation. Whereas the event of a freshman passing out drunk on a couch after a crazy night may make a fun memory at which to look back and laugh, it’s a snapshot that best remains between the individuals. The decision to post the picture on the World Wide Web was a poor one. Had the poster considered the possible ramifications for the postee, he or she may have decided against publicizing the event. Some crazy stuff happens at college, and often, Facebook is the first place people take it. It’s great that everyone is in touch with so many people and want to share their lives, but there should be a filter applied, separating what should be broadcast and what should be kept private. There are incredibly complex psychological and sociological concepts involved in networking Web sites such as Facebook; however, there is a very simple idea that must be present people’s minds each time they log on: the Golden Rule. To do unto others as one would like others to do unto himself or herself is one of the most basic human principles, yet it is forgotten much too frequently. I firmly believe that each Lawrentian has a clear understanding of right and wrong deep within himself or herself, but it can be clouded and misguided by other “stuff” going on in our minds. We must be sure that when making judgment calls, we get in touch with this deeply embedded sense, and understand the consequences of our actions. Ultimately, think twice before posting that picture or video on Facebook, and if you have any doubts as to how others, especially the people in the picture or video, will react, there’s a simple solution: don’t post it. If you feel a strong desire to contribute to the wealth of information, gossip, drama, and humor on Facebook, simply type a friendly wall post to someone you’ve lost touch with. Comment on someone’s senior photo from their old high school yearbook. There are plenty of positive things on Facebook to participate in, despite what some old technologically challenged curmudgeons – my own parents come to mind – may say. You, my fellow Lawrentians, have the power to brighten someone’s day with a cute picture from LOL Cats or FAIL Blog. I urge you to use this power for the benefit of your friends and colleagues and family and to make the true Lawrence Difference.