One of the jokes that is most telling of our generation is the “I hope the government enjoyed reading my private emails” type. What other age group has grown up worrying over (and laughing at) the fact that our text messages and online activity are – or, can be – monitored by the government and private companies that provide communication services? Another lesson we’re taught is that anything we post on the internet is permanent. So, anything we send electronically is not actually between the people sending and receiving, but available for others to see publicly, and to use against us. Our private messages are public and permanent. While this is kind of intimidating and sad, and many debates can come from the ethics of this situation, what I find particularly interesting about it in this instance is that because these messages are kept and filed away, they can be used to prove things that were said.
Earlier this week in my recitation for another class, we watched this interview with Richie Incognito, who, if you didn’t know (I didn’t until the class), has become the center of an NFL scandal around Jonathan Martin – a fellow Miami Dolphin – quitting his job due to alleged hazing.
Buzzfeed posted an article with a timeline of Incognito’s past discretions and the repercussions. After reading the article, I’m inclined to not believe a word the guy says, but I don’t want to judge him based on a buzzfeed list. However, if you watch the interview, you can see that a lot of his arguments are utter crap. He’s defensive. I really don’t want to believe him.
YET. In the interview, he offers up some incriminating (or I guess, non-incriminating) text messages between him and his “buddy” Jonathan that seem to prove that Jonathan doesn’t blame Incognito for the reasons he quit. Obviously there are things that can be faked, and both men have enough money to have this done in a pinch, but can our “private” messages be made public evidence for society to judge us? What does this say about our generation?
I’m not saying I think Incognito’s actions are justified after those text messages from Martin were revealed. In my opinion, Incognito is a rude, selfish, immature person who is used to being pardoned for his less-than-savory actions. Furthermore, even if I were to buy into the whole “boys will be boys in a locker room” excuse, it’s still pretty telling that an NFL player – who I assume is more than used to the “locker room environment” – would quit because he thinks the “culture” of it is too harsh. A seasoned pro says enough is enough? That’s powerful.
I do think, however, that we need to figure out how willing we are to accept text messages (or any other electronic form of communication) as evidence of a good relationship. We communicate differently with each other over the web versus face to face, and tone is pretty much wiped out when the message is displayed on a screen. We’ve been judging people based on the words they write since we’ve been able to write words. But can we judge people based on the electronic words we write? Especially the private ones?