I couldn’t find the exact quote; however, in the HBO Series The Sopranos, James (Gandolfini) as Tony Soprano passes on the advice that eventually your persona in the professional world and your persona in your personal world will become inseparable. I believe this concept holds true when addressing behavior in the digital world and behavior in the real world. Due to inexperience, humans may have the preconception that how they carry themselves online can differ than how they carry themselves in the real world. We, humans, are learning that this is not the case at all. Whether we use the digital universe for positive or negative activities, those activities are stored and tracked regardless of our desires to store or track them. This creates total transparency and those that participate in the digital universe must be aware of this transparency and adjust their behavior to ensure the proper reflection of self.
Monica (Lewinsky) was, as she described it, “ground-zero” for this type of transparency. Before the digital age, even when scandal broke, the scandal could be localized and those involved could usually find a way to “escape” or “start-over” somewhere new. The advent of digital media ushered in a new era lacking the privacy to engage in activity “behind-closed-doors.” There are two major points to consider when developing a stance on whether this loss of privacy will benefit or harm society. On one side of the coin, we want to maintain our privacy from an overzealous government that can manipulate practice of law to entrap and prosecute citizens that would normally move through life as positive citizens. For example, an adult educator may use social media to post pictures of a family beach vacation on their private account. The school district said educator works for may find their way to these pictures and deem them unacceptable, because they would not be appropriate if students were to view them. The educator has not broken any laws nor has done anything inappropriate but may face consequences due to posts in the digital world. On the other side of the coin, we can use total transparency to adjust human culture in a way that people no longer participate in activities they know will be seen by society as negative. Will people refrain from questionable activity in the digital and real realms of their world to avoid scrutiny? Could this lead to a more harmonious and free society? At what point do we separate professional life from personal life? Has the advent of the digital world erased that line between the professional life and personal life? What about those that use digital tools under an anonymous username?
If I had unlimited resources, I would eliminate the availability of using an anonymous username in the digital world. I would create a system that would link all digital activity of a user to one username that could be tracked to identify any illegal activity. This would assist in identifying, educating, and curbing cyberbullying on top of promoting kind, acceptable digital citizenship. Shane Koyczan wrote and performed one of the most moving poems I have had the pleasure of watching. His display of the effects of bullying demonstrate the importance of educating our youth on the importance of empathy. Lack of empathy will always be the driving motivation behind any type of bullying; however, it is not impossible to educate citizens of all ages on the effects of their actions. This education paired with introducing coping skills and empowerment skills has a better chance of helping our youth develop into positive, life-long learning, citizens. Our students must understand that digital activity cannot be hidden. They must also understand that their digital activity will be a direct reflection on their persona in the real world. Once these two ideas take hold, our students will adjust their online practices to ensure they are viewed as positive digital citizens.
Lewinsky, M. (2015, March). The Price of Shame. TED. Retrieved
Gandolfini, J. (n.d.). The Sopranos. HBO Broadcasting.