The Hypocrisy of People Like Me

Meaning people 57 years old, give or take a decade or two. We routinely bemoan the negative consequences of the internet, social media, and “screens” on the young.

But when it comes to an utter lack of electronic etiquette, or damn, even life and death cyber bullying, our offspring have nothing on us.

Take the case of Frank Meza, a retired doctor from Los Angeles, who spent the last few years running parts of marathons and then lying about his results. Who the hell knows why he felt compelled to burnish his athletic reputation at a time in life when most people finally stop giving a damn about others’ opinions.

That will most likely remain a mystery since he was found dead in the Los Angeles River after telling his wife he was going for a run. What we know from his family is that he was devastated by the internet-based backlash to his fanciful alternative reality. Devastated more specifically by the numerous, aggrieved, middle aged contributors to MarathonInvestigation.com who are known for ruthlessly pouncing on fake speedsters of which there seems to be a steady supply.

The are numerous lessons to learn from this tragic loss of life; among them, people from the Pre-Internet Era like me should stop pretending we have the moral high ground.

 

I Give Up: Electronic Etiquette is a Lost Cause

Over the last year or two I sometimes noticed individual colleagues sporadically checking their phones for texts and messages during meetings.* I found it puzzling since we insist that students unplug during class.

Then last week I went to a meeting of Washington State’s Education Deans. Suffice to say, between a third and half of everyone was working on their phones and/or laptops during all of our conversations. Thirty people around one large conference table, a dean, state legislator, or school district superintendent talking, and 10-15 people unabashedly reading and sending texts and emails.

That’s a critical mass of distracted participants who’ve given in to the tyranny of the urgent. They’re partly sitting around the conference table and partly back in their offices. Half present at both or half absent?

That query suggests what they’re doing is wrong, but it’s too late in the Information Revolution for that conclusion. It is what it is. Don’t look for me to put any of the toothpaste back in the tube. It’s up to Sherry Turkle. I’m waving a white flag.

A month ago I was in an hour long committee meeting with about eight colleagues from across campus. We were sitting around a smallish conference table in Xavier (for those Lutes keeping score at home). I was distracted by an IT/Librarian colleague who wouldn’t take his eyes of his laptop screen. Fifty five of the sixty minutes. It was as impressive a feat of anti-social disconnectedness as I had ever seen.