It isn’t always apparent, but one of the guiding principles of the internet is, “don’t be a dick,” also known as Wheaton’s Law. (Explained here in a wonderful piece from Wired‘s “Geekmom” blog.)
Trolls (defined by a dickishness usually clouded in anonymity) permeate nearly every aspect of the internet; and in instances of trolling, there’s typically a horde of people defending what’s good and decent by knocking down and calling out the negativity.
Recently, there has been a rash of dickishness in the real world, which is then broadcast to the internet, where the system works its magic, bringing offenders to justice back in the physical realm.
We’ve often encouraged you to protect your privacy. Recently, we wrote about a list of personal information that you should not be sharing online . Though this should go without saying, apparently it must be said: one of the things that you shouldn’t be broadcasting is your illegal activity. In internet terms we would like to say, if you’re going to be a dick, don’t also be an idiot.
The most famous example is the bus monitor bullying story, in which 68-year-old Karen Huff Klein was verbally abused by a group of mean-spirited teens, who then posted the video online. Had they not shared this awful display of inhumanity, they would likely have been let off the hook. At the very least, they wouldn’t be universally reviled by the 2 million plus who watched the original video.
In this case, there was a clear victim and clear perpetrators. In the case of a Mayfield Heights, Ohio Burger King employee, the victims were every customer who was unaware of the treatment their food was getting. An unidentified employee posted a picture of himself standing, shoes on, in containers of lettuce that was then served to customers. He then posted the picture to a message board on the website 4chan, Within minutes, intrepid commenters found the geotag information from the posted photo, used it to determine the exact Burger King where the lettuce stomping was taking place, and informed BK management of their rogue employee. He was fired.
The most extreme and disturbing example of this new rash of oversharing criminal activity was the murder of Delfino Mora in Chicago. Three teenagers playing the stomach-turning game of “pick ‘em out and knock ‘em out” chose 62-year-old Mora as their target for a random act of violence. Mora was struck in the face by Malik Jones, 16, while two of his friends (Nicholas Ayala, 17, and Anthony Malcolm, 18) filmed the attack. When Mora’s head hit the concrete, the attack turned fatal. The teens then posted the video to Facebook, leading to their immediate arrest. All three of the attackers are being charged as adults.
It’s not entirely clear whether criminals are becoming more arrogant, if our culture is glamorizing criminal activity more and more, or if this new technology is leading us to share everything without realizing the consequences.
To restate the maxim, please, we implore you, don’t be a dick. It goes without saying that all of the above acts (while clearly not all of the same magnitude) are things that any decent human being wouldn’t do. So if you don’t want to lose your job, or the respect of the public, or your future, you’ll refrain from victimizing others. While radically unfortunate for the victims, we should be thankful for the idiocy of these perpetrators. Without their absence of thought, they may never have been brought to justice. Hopefully all future criminals will be this stupid.
(Image by Oliver F. Atkins (1916-1977) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)