Here are a few thoughts on this question:
Monday's New York Times article, After Suicide, Blog Insults Are Debated, reported on an incredibly disturbing event. After being personally attacked by unwarranted comments posted on two well-known advertising blogs, the very successful and accomplished creative director of DDB-Chicago committed suicide. The article also discussed the 2006 suicide of a 13-year old girl who, in the months leading up to her death, had been cyber-bullied by an adult neighbor pretending to be a teenage boy.
We can certainly ponder the cause-and-effect relationship of bullying in the virtual world. The hard truth, however, is that what so many of us value and praise the Internet for providing - anonymity, ease of communication, freedom of expression - has, in part, morphed into a venue for virtual bashing without consequence. There it is - the electronic mob.
The even harder truth is that yes, the mob is right here in Darien. It's happening in the Darien News Blog. It's inevitably happening on our MySpace and Facebook accounts. It's even happening in The Darien Times, where individuals are using the public forum to personally attack people or the paper itself rather than presenting a civil argument on concrete issues affecting the town.
It's a curious thing. We would all take action if we saw a child being outright bullied on the playground by another child. We would stop what was happening to the best of our ability, wouldn't we? So why do we so readily accept the type of from-afar bullying that goes on in this town - the kind that tries to pass itself off as valid criticism? Why do we allow anonymity and personal attacking to occur while accountability falls by the wayside?
Another, and perhaps the most important, question for us all: What can we do about it?
For our close-knit community, as part of a world that has embraced the Internet age and freedom of speech with open arms, it's a question that should be confronted and answered. There's no doubt about that.
Perhaps a starting point for action will be the program being held at Darien Library tomorrow night at 7pm, when author Lee Siegel will be visiting to speak about the ideas in his new book, Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob. Mr. Siegel clarifys the urgency with which we need to deal with the hidden dangers of the Internet and the lack of accountability that has become a norm in our society. Please join us and let's get the ideas rolling on how we can implement the changes that need to take place.
The New York Times has proclaimed him to be swaggeringly abrasive and "one of the country's most eloquent and acid-tongued critics." The New York Observer has labeled him a "zigzagging cultural omnivore." Pete Hamill of The New Yorker encourages readers to "savor his vigorous prose, and prepare to be surprised."
And last week, in an episode of The Daily Show, he eagerly debated with Jon Stewart on the subject of cyber-bullying:
I think it's safe to say that with Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob, author Lee Siegel lives up to his unabashed reputation with a provocative exposition of what he deems "the most radical transformation of private and public life in the history of humankind" - the Internet.
Mr. Siegel never fails to intrigue and entertain as he packs a pop culture punch and attacks what has become second-nature to most of us - surfing the Web, emailing, blogging, watching reality television, even our regular Starbucks outings - with a fresh, albeit a bit stinging, perspective. He questions why society has so blindly accepted the Internet as a utopia of human connection and points out that, in fact, it actually fosters isolation, bullying, invasions of privacy, and a false sense of reality...to name a few!
Please join us on Thursday, March 6th at 7:00pm, when Mr. Siegel visits Darien Library as part of our Ouside the Box series. You won't want to miss this opportunity to meet one of the most respected and buzzed about culture-critics in the nation.
Copies of the book will be available for purchase.
A book signing will follow the presentation and there will be a drawing for prizes.
Refreshments will be served. Coffee is courtesy of Darien Starbucks.
A WINE & CHEESE PARTY AT THE LIBRARY
Darien Library wraps up an extremely successful Adult Summer Reading Program with a Grand Finale Wine & Cheese Party on Wednesday, August 22 at 7 p.m. Award-winning journalist Stacy Lytwyn Maxwell will be our special guest. Maxwell’s 13 years of research have yielded a fabulous and fun book, Consummate Connecticut: Day Trips with Panache, which features 48 different Connecticut cities, towns, and villages, and all there is to do and see in the Nutmeg State.
The Adult Summer Reading Program, which concludes after 10 weeks, had nearly 400 participants. More than 600 entries (each one representing a book read) for raffle prizes were submitted. Each week of the program, the Library held a drawing for a bag of books. The bags of books included autographed books, advanced readers copies of future bestsellers, and/or newly published titles.
Three Grand Prizes (two L.L. Bean duffle bags and a Vera Bradley travel kit) will be announced and awarded at the Grand Finale event, and all who attend will receive a gift of a copy of Maxwell’s book.
Participation in the Adult Summer Reading Program is not necessary to attend the Wine & Cheese Party.
What better way to celebrate both Earth Day and National Poetry Month than by joining us at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 22nd for The Poet's Voice. Natalie Safir is the author of four collections of poetry and her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. Raised in New York City and now living in Tarrytown Ms. Safir has been teaching poetry and writing for more than twenty years. We are delighted she will be with us for this annual spring Library event.