The age of DELIBERATELY delayed reckonings

It’s here, and is worrying.

True story:

The age of DELIBERATELY delayed reckonings /img/right-thing-wrong-reason.jpg
  1. A 15 or 16-years old student (Student 1) says the N-word in a 3-seconds video, and shares it with friends
  2. The video stays afloat in the local community until, three years later, another student of the same school (Student 2) receives a copy
  3. Having already being the target of racist slurs in the school, Student 2 signals the video and those other incidents to the principal
  4. The principal does nothing
  5. Student 2 then decides to save the video for the right moment to use it, after Student 1 has chosen a college
  6. One month later, that is right after the killing of George Floyd, Student 1 posts on Instagram a call to support the Black Lives Matter movement
  7. Then, Students 2 posts the video, calling out the audacity to make such a call, “after saying the N-word”
  8. That post immediately goes viral, on Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and what not
  9. In the next two days, Student 1 is removed from the university’s cheer team, then withdraws from school under pressure from admissions officials, who had received hundreds of outraged emails and phone calls

Where, no: WHEN is the real problem here?

I have already discussed the long-term dangers of students behaving “online properly, for the WRONG reason”, and the paradox of algorithms grading students who are explicitly encouraged to cheat algorithms.

At first sight, that true story may seem more of the same, maybe even too commonplace to be still newsworthy. The NYT article I summarize above notes that Student 1 is only one of “many incoming freshmen across the country whose admissions offers were revoked by at least a dozen universities after videos emerged on social media of them using racist language." Some students gained acceptance to Harvard University only to have that acceptance rescinded for, again, “inappropriate social media posts”.

This specific story, however, has something that is new, at least for me, and is definitely worrying anyway.

Let’s take two obvious issues out of the way first, so you can focus on the real one. First, what is almost surely wrong in this story is Number 4, that is the principal not taking steps as soon as possible.

Second, all teenagers do really dumb things, and (almost) all teenagers outgrow them, eventually. And being abandoned far too early onto a deliberately addictive global stage is not healthy to begin with. We already knew that, or should. In general, what Student 2 called “the audacity of supporting Black Lives Matter” three years after saying the N-word” may be nothing more than “18-years old are much more mature than what they were three years before”.

That said, what is new (again: to me at least) and really worrying here is not the decision of Student 2 to call out Student 1. It is Number 5, that is what I am tempted to call the delayed-burst-by-design, kind-of-college-revenge-porn side of the story.

It is the deliberate decision to stockpile weapons that are already three years old, until the right moment comes.

Knowing that anything you leak online today may be used against you any moment right after it is discovered, now or twenty years from now, may be healthy. Maybe. Knowing that you are surrounded by people who say nothing in public when they disagree, but save evidence “waiting for the right moment”, much less.

So, if you find someone behaving really badly online…

  1. Make sure you already took your own “social media hippocratic oath”
  2. Just sleep over it, at lest one day. Possibly two, or three
  3. Then do not wait anymore. Call it out or forget it, it’s your call. And if calling out makes no effect OK, then saving that evidence for future “right moments” may make sense. But otherwise, just move on.

This is valid advice at every age, but the younger one is, the more valid it is. Which is why this stuff should be thaught in schools. Possibly before one is 15 years old.