In 1899, while Samuel Clemens, aka, Mark Twain was living in Sweden, he wrote an article that was eventually published in Harper’s Monthly Magazine about fifteen years later. In his essay, Clemens waxed poetically about the use of pictures as memory devices. Given his many tours on the speaker’s circuit, Clemens often used images in place of notes when he delivered his speeches.
Clemens said, “…you can tear up your pictures as soon as you have made them–they will stay fresh and strong in your memory in the order and sequence in which you scratched them down.” Given his success with this method, he felt these “tricks” would help children absorb the lessons of history.
I spend many hours each week, heeding his advice attempting to find just the right image or video to help students better understand the good, the bad and the ugly consequences of social media. A few months ago I was looking for such images when I came upon an animated video of a transparent head with a green brain floating and slowly rotating through the ethers of the universe. I was captivated by its outwardly omnipresent form — which seemed to posses the ability to see, know and tell all — while having no empathy for its victims.
I needed that big green brain to tell the story. The story of how digital devices and the corresponding apps potentially see everything that you do; record everything that you do; and potentially distribute everything that you do. So with the help of $25, I purchased the digital rights to the big green brain and set out to tell the story.
Perhaps no better example of the big green brain’s power was exhibited by Curt Schilling, the former baseball great that put the hurt on two “virtual thugs” who hid behind pseudonyms as they trash talked Curt Schilling’s daughter with rude, misogynistic rants on Twitter.
The trash-talking Twitter tantrums were in response to Schillings proud post congratulating his daughter Gabby’s acceptance to college where she’ll be playing softball. The post was met with a flurry of mean-spirited, highly sexualized and somewhat violent comments directed at Gabby.
Like any self-respecting father, Mr. Schilling’s protective shield was raised as he vowed to out the craven provocateurs, lashing back and revealing their real names, jobs and colleges they were attending. I’m sure each were shocked by how quick, accurate and overwhelming Mr. Schillings reply was.
One of the miscreant known on Twitter as “The Sports Guru” was a DJ at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He has since been suspended by the school for violating its standard of conduct.
Another virtual assailant purportedly was the VP of the Theta Xi fraternity at Montclair State University and a ticket-seller for the Yankees. Upon learning the identity of the individual, he was subsequently fired by the Yankees. These situations are great illustrations of the power of the big green brain.
As a child attending Catholic school, the nuns at Our Lady of Victory School in Cincinnati would lecture us that, “God sees and hears everything that you do.” Moreover, there would be consequences for our actions. I believed that then — and continue to do so today. However, if you don’t believe in God, you must believe in the Big Green Brain. Evidence of its existence can be found almost daily on the news, publications and courtrooms throughout the world. Ask any divorce lawyer in the country the role that social media plays in divorce proceedings. The Big Green Brain aka, Social Media, provides a treasure trove of information for many divorces and law suits.
DATA, DATA, DATA
Today, data from government, marketing companies and social media is easily aggregated and bought and sold. It’s often easy to determine the real names of so called “alias cowboys” by simply knowing just one identifying piece of information, such as their pseudonym, email address, home address or other information. Services such as Spokeo.com and others aggregate databases from auditors sites, social media sites and other publications often with incredible accuracy. The cloak of darkness for most such offenders is often quickly eliminated — particularly by people with the financial means such as Schilling. However, Spokeo cost less than $4.00 per month and often will surprise you by the richness of information it has on almost everyone.
DID HE CREATE BIGGER ISSUES FOR HIS FAMILY?
While most fathers, my self-included would stop at nothing to protect our children, I’m not certain that Mr. Schilling didn’t create more problems given his response. He now has raised the ire of every self-loathing cretin on the Internet by his “shock and awe” offensive. This will likely only garner more hate filled responses on social media that will follow him and his family for the foreseeable future.
Additionally, given his public profile, telling the world where his daughter will be attending college is also an invitation for problems. If the “creepy guy down the street” didn’t know about Mr. Schilling’s daughter — he does now.
If social media were not a major part of my career, I may have reacted in much the same way as Mr. Schilling. However, the last slide in our live presentations to teens perhaps provides the best advice for everyone young and old when considering a social media comment… “Take 5.”
Before ever sending a tweet, post or Snap, take five seconds, five minutes or five hours and think about the consequences of your actions. I’m sure The Sports Guru; the VP of the Theta Xi fraternity at Montclair State University; and even Curt Schilling wish they had taken that same advice before they entered 140 characters to elicit laughter or seek revenge.
Had each of today’s bad actors only known the legend of The Big Green Brain, the nation’s 24 hour news channels would be spending less time focused on two guys whose bravado got way out of hand — and more time focused on real news such as Bruce Jenner, Kim Kardashian or Kanye West.