The Power and Peril of Social Media

The pendulum has swung the other way and it's in style to dismiss social media has overblown, but two incidents occurred recently that demonstrate that not everyone is comfortable with the brave new world a few geeks in California hath created.

I've had a lot of creepy teachers as I'm sure you've had and it was always a shock to see any teacher (creepy or not) outside of a school. Seeing your math teacher in the cereal aisle causes a unique sense of shock (and seeing your former math teacher with his new baby, who he had with a student who was three years younger than you(and a year younger than his daughter) whom he married shortly after she graduated is all together type of shock that only qualified professionals can sort out) as is entertaining the notion of any kind of personal life a teacher may have.

This guy, however, posted his creepy thoughts ('disturbing' fiction and, from the example in the article, really bad poetry) on his website. Not a crime, certainly, but when you are a director of a private school, the parents might get a little upset, especially when one of the poems begins with 'the first act of killing is the hardest'.

Posting something means that it enters the public realm and therefore subject to scrutiny. I have no idea whether he is a good school director or not, and I suppose it doesn't really matter. He should have left his poetry in his mysteriously-stained rumpled notebook that he keeps buried at the bottom of his desk.

This kid, on the other hand, is also suffering from posting things that he probably shouldn't. To recap, he started a group on facebook that shared ideas about a project. Big whoop, you might say, but you haven't been in university (or in Ryerson's case, an almost-university.. Go Gaels!) where justice is swift an unfair. In my day, way back in the mid-90's, students would often talk about assignments and share ideas (it was called 'study group') and no one ever got in trouble. We didn't have a paper trial (or in this case, an electronic document trail) that someone could point to.

I have sympathy for this kid and he should argue that if it wasn't explicitly explained in class that he couldn't use facebook (or similar technology) then it isn't really fair to persecute him. It probably never occurred to him what he was doing was wrong, or could be perceived as wrong. Instead of meeting in the campus pub and talking about it, they did it on the Internet. Slap him on the wrist, maybe knock his grade down a notch, and set the precedent for future incidents.

From a PR point of view, Ryerson is looking like a bunch of old Luddites who can't program their VCRs (ha! you don't have PVRS?Losers!) and are fearful of change. (I thought that was reserved for my Alma matter, Queen's). Not the best way to attract the next generation of the best and brightest, or in Ryerson's case, the not so best and not so bright who couldn't get in to York.

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