9860[WWWEDU] Re: Any thoughts on how I should respond to Wired?
- Sep 4, 2007Andy:
You definitely win this year's Gandhi Prize!
>>>andycarvin@... 09/04 9:57 am >>>Hi everyone,
Thanks again for all of the thoughtful suggestions you passed along
regarding how I should handle the story from Wired. I've decided to
take a middle-of-the-road approach, writing an open letter to the
author on my PBS blog, but not firing back with snark of my own. The
more I learned about the author, the more I concluded he was actually
a decent guy who just made a joke without thinking about the
consequences, so I approached my response from that perspective.
Here's a shortcut to the letter on my blog:
And for your convenience, here's the text. -andy
To: Mathew Honan, Wired Magazine
From: Andy Carvin
You don't know me, but I was hoping I could take up a few minutes of
your time today. I see we've got a lot in common; we're both writers,
Mac users, photographers; we've even both backpacked around Laos and
written travelogues about it. You seem like the kind of guy I'd
probably want to hang out with at SXSW or something, perhaps to grab a
beer and swap travel stories. And that's why I feel I can be straight
up with you about something you wrote recently that really hurt a lot
of educators across the country.
You see, in my free time I volunteer as the coordinator of an online
community called Stop Cyberbullying. I founded it earlier this year as
a way to give educators and parents a place where they could share
strategies to deal with the issue of cyberbullying. Don't get me
wrong; it's not intended as a place for primadonna bloggers with glass
jaws to complain about how they're being dissed by their peers, nor is
it a community for humorless schoolmarms to demand that all un-PC
online behavior should be banned forthwith by Congress. Instead, it's
just a group of well-meaning, concerned people who in some cases are
trying to save the lives of their children or students.
I'm not trying to be melodramatic and overstate the situation here, so
I won't waste your time throwing out dubious statistics as to what
percentage of kids get bullied via the Internet, text messaging and
the like. Depending on whom you ask, it's either a widespread problem
or small minority of kids. No matter how you slice it, though, the
fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of thousands of kids who
are harassed by their peers on a regular basis. For some of these
kids, the bullying is so bad it basically paralyzes them, making them
fearful of attending school, going online or turning on their phone.
And for a small minority of kids, it's led to suicide attempts. Some
of them have even been successful.
I'm sure you had none of this in mind when you wrote a short article
for the latest issue of Wired Magazine entitled Beware These Six
Lamest Social Networks. As both a Star Trek fan and a cat owner, I had
to laugh when you cited social networks targeting those particular
demographic groups; you definitely nailed those two, and rightly so.
But you also included the Stop Cyberbullying community in your list,
describing it as a place populated by pussies who will gang up on
you mercilessly if you call them that.
Now, I know you intended this as a joke. And like I said, if this
community were a place where whining bloggers or self-righteous
luddites came to commiserate among themselves, I think it'd be fair
game for some snark. Instead, though, you decided to go after a group
of concerned educators and parents who are just trying to help out
kids who are living in their own private hell. And by calling us out,
it led to the unintended consequence of having countless vandals and
trolls descend upon the site, for the sole purpose of - yes - bullying
us. It left us with no choice but to put the community in lockdown,
removing it from public view and preventing new members from joining
unless they could prove they weren't there to cause harm. We now must
treat every prospective member with suspicion, rather than greet them
with open arms.
I know what you wrote was intended to be funny - and in any other
context, it would have been. But it wasn't, and it's demoralized a lot
of people who are already fighting an uphill battle against a problem
that all too often just isn't taken seriously. And I know writing this
letter will probably cause us more problems - not from you personally,
but from a small minority of people who will read this letter and use
it as an excuse to harass me and my colleagues, as usually happens
whenever I write about cyberbullying in a public space. That's the
cost of trying to help these kids, I guess.
Anyway, that's all I wanted to say. If you're ever in the DC area,
drop me and note and we can find somewhere to grab a bottle or two of
BeerLao and swap stories about tropical diseases and other backpacking
disasters. Thanks again for taking the time to read this.
WWWEDU, The Web and Education Discussion Group
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