Monday, April 6, 2009

Immortalizing the Moment

Spending an evening on the World Wide Web is much like sitting down to a dinner of Cheetos... two hours later your fingers are yellow and you're no longer hungry, but you haven't been nourished. ~Clifford Stoll

It's amazing what gets people worked up.

Seems some guy took a video of his very young son after said son had just had a tooth pulled at the dentist's. The kid was evidently drugged up and started babbling like a fool. Dad thought this was so hilarious he posted on YouTube or some such place.

Confession: I haven't viewed the video and have no desire to, for reasons which will become obvious.

Now parents have been immortalizing embarrassing moments of their kids since the Kodak Brownie. Prior to that, they only had stories to tell, which the kid could always deny. But, once photographic means were available, the parents jumped on the opportunity. When 8 mm film became available, that added new dimensions. Once video taping became cheap and easy, it was katie-bar-the-door. Now, with video phones, kids don't have a prayer of escaping to adulthood without some utterly humiliating moment being saved for all posterity.

Posterity, of course, means either the kid's first girl/boyfriend or, worse, the kid's own kids. "Look! Your Daddy was an idiot just like you!"

I wish to state for the record that I have never done this to my kids. In retrospect, there are several occasions when I wish I had, but one can't cry over missed opportunities.

At any rate, this entire process has now reached Web 2.0, allowing a parent to embarrass the kid before the entire planet. A columnist named Mary Mitchell took umbrage to this and said so in a piece she wrote. For her trouble, she was excoriated by the public at large. My favorite criticism is by the person who said, "People should mind their own business."

Yes, and people should mind what they make other people's business.

It's amazing to me that people think a) that a video of an incoherent child would be funny, and b) that it would be ok to post said video on the internet. We live in a country where overzealous prosecutors have tried to peg people on child pornography charges for posting traditional naked-kid-on-a-bear rug pictures and little-naked-kid-in-the-bath pictures. Folks have been projecting those on screens for the amusement of relatives --and boy/girl friends -- to the horror of kids for years. I've even seen them as part of the family photos on a co-worker's desk.

Where are these protectors of the children now?

What that kid's dear, dumb dad doesn't realize is that video is now a part of internet history. It will be available in one way or another for as long as there are computers. The kid will find a link to it posted to his Web 3.0 social site 10 years from now. When he goes to apply for a job, the interviewer will bring up the video and say, "Are you still on drugs?" No, not really. What the interviewer will ask is, "Are you as incapable of good judgement as your father?"

To me, this guy is one step removed from the morons who commit a crime, capture it on video, then post it to Facebook, MySpace, or wherever. Then they're shocked when they're arrested.

I've railed on about the idiocy on the 'Net before. The sad thing is that the Internet started out as a way to exchange information. If anything, thanks to content providers trying to keep you from actually finding their stuff, that's getting more difficult all the time. But, you can still use it that way.

And, I'm not down on the commercialization. I like being able to shop via the Web, whether at web stores or bricks-and-mortar outfits utilizing the web (scheduled an appointment to get my windshield fixed today).

No, what bothers me is that the Internet has become a freak show, where displaying humiliation is becoming the standard bearer of Web 2.0. I guess we can blame TV for instigating this. Remember America's Funniest Home Videos? It may still be around for all I know, but on the few occasions I saw it, it was apparent that a good number of the videos were staged (although the pain was real) just to get on TV. Even the producers of the show realized this; they had at least one segment of obviously faked videos.

How pathetic does someone have to be to take a baseball in the crotch or have their skivvies pulled down on purpose so that millions of people can see them? I'm not sure how pathetic they have to be, but there sure are a lot of them.

It's not always videos, of course. Thanks to the social sites and blogs in general, people have been able to make complete fools of themselves in digital print as well.

And now they're immortalized. For future employers and possible mates to see potentially forever. Or for current co-workers to find and to pass on to their soon-to-be ex-employers.

The Internet is a mass of unintended consequences.

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