Did you make a mistake at a young age that you later regretted?
This week I came across a viral video/news story in both my Twitter & Facebook feeds about two young men in a vehicle driving impaired and filming themselves on a cellphone. The video is raw footage of the last minutes of two young men's lives, including the moment that they met their fatal end.
The news story I referred to above was entitled "Families Release Video Showing Moment 2 Men Killed in Impaired Driving Crash". This was not the boys nor their friends that released this video; it was their parents. This got me thinking about a trend I have been noticing on social media, particularly over the last year: parents digitally sharing videos/pictures of their children's fatal or life-altering mistakes.
In each story I have read, the parents assert that they share these photos/videos on social media and other digital spaces (with the hopes of many shares, retweets, etc) in order to save another life. While I certainly have compassion for what the parents and their child are going through, whenever I read a story like this, I ask myself:
When parents share unflattering videos and pictures of their children in the hopes to save another--is this social saving (a life), or is it social shaming?
Lewinsky recalls listening to audiotapes of herself during her crisis and being "deeply, deeply ashamed of the worst version of [herself]; a self [she] didn't even recognize." The video of these two young men was also a reflection of the worst version of themselves. I wonder had the two young men in the video lived, would they have had a similar reaction to Lewinsky’s? Chances are they would. This also makes me wonder if the two young men in the video would want the last mistake they made (including their last moments of life) viral for the world to see. I personally would not. We will never know the answer to this, but it begs to question:
How would you want to be remembered after you're gone? Would you want to be remembered for the last mistake you made?
Like Lewinsky, these two young men will "be seen by many, but actually known by few". While there is no arguing that the young men were in wrong that fateful night, it is arguable that these two young men also had a good side, but that good side will never be known (at least not on a viral scale like their mistake is known). They will never have a way to redeem themselves. They are gone. What we do know is that, like Lewinsky, they have "lost their reputation on a global scale".
The families are quoted in the news stories as saying, "[We] really don't know why the boys chose to do what they did, but [we] blame them both for the decisions they made on this night. If all this stops one person from making the same mistake, then some good has come from showing this video. [We're] hoping it will have an impact on young people and make them see that a bit of fun can have such devastating consequences."
I commend the families for expressing concern for others and not wanting others to meet the same fate their children did. The desired positive consequence is to save a life; however, just as "a bit of fun can have devastating consequences", sharing a video of this nature can also have "devastating consequences". When scrolling through the comments, people have engaged in "virtual stone throwing", not at the parents, but at the deceased. The majority of comments are cruel and vulgar. The two young men have been branded as less than human, deserving of their fate. Are these families now twice-victimized: 1) losing their children, and 2) the comments about their deceased children? Furthermore, one of the young men had a 5-year-old daughter, how will the releasing of this video affect her? Will the video traumatize her (she will one day be able to view it)? What about the comments the potential hurt it may generate (it hurts to read cruel comments about ourselves and our loved ones)?
I have also seen similar stories lately of parents sharing pictures/videos of their children in their worst moments, but the children have survived. Below are two examples:
In making an example of our children, are we subjecting them to public humiliation and unwanted fame?
For teens who survive their mistakes, what impact does their viral story have on their future? Will they have trouble finding jobs, always being remembered as "that kid", etc.
Should we let our children decide if they want to share their story? Whose narrative is it?
With every share of these horrific stories, are we decreasing casualties or are we, ourselves, casualties to the increasing need for shock value?
We are already exposed to shocking commercials, posters and speakers, and people still engage in risky behaviour--do these "raw" videos and photos shared on social media really make a difference?