Remember back in school when other students would get caught with explicit notes? Even without the Internet and cellphones, somehow the entire school would find out about the intimate feelings of the senders or the recipients.
Today, with computers and cell phones, people instantly post their thoughts, pictures and videos over private networks. And just like back in school, sometimes we get to see unintentional messages and images. This time, the audience isn’t a few hundred kids. This time, the audience is the world.
The latest such scandal involves Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who unintentionally posted a picture of his erection via Twitter. Although Twitter has been the source of public venting and squabbles with celebrities like Chris Brown, it has not caused the furor that leaked videos have. Some of the most notable sex tapes involved Pamela Anderson, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Rihanna and even a rumored tape with Usher and his ex-wife, Tameka Foster. For the record, a jury said that R. Kelly was the man seen in a sex tape, but they were uncertain of the woman’s age or identity.
In the past, lewd images would have likely ruined a celebrity’s career, but today, just the opposite is often true. In 1983, Vanessa Williams was the first African American to win Miss America, but she lost her crown once pornographic pictures of her were published. Almost 30 years later in 2010, Donald Trump defended Miss USA Pageant contestants who were featured in risqué photos. He said he has “no problem with it.”
What has changed in our society to allow what was once socially unacceptable to now not only be acceptable, but expected to an extent? Many would blame the Internet, which is the only unregulated public communication medium in the country. Literally, anyone or anything goes on the Internet. With so many more communication options available, today’s students are now getting in trouble for things like “sexting” and “cyberbullying.” So, is technology really the issue or is it the easy, unrestricted access?
Because technology is always changing, we are often merely focused on how to use new software and devices, but the real lesson should be how to use technology appropriately. Although technology has created greater opportunities and access for communication, we have to be more vigilant and wise about what and with whom we share our personal feelings and images. Remember, the world is now the audience.
Annette Johnson is the owner of Allwrite Advertising and Publishing (www.e-allwrite.com), and the author of “What’s Your Motivation?: Identifying and Understanding What Drives You” (www.whatmotivation.com).