Odd Thoughts: Powerful tool cuts both ways

Social media has changed the world.

It’s brought human beings from around the world closer together – for both good and bad.

Some otherwise inconsequential guy in an obscure corner of the Netherlands has been implicated in using social media to maliciously exploit, bully, and blackmail kids all over the world… including Amanda Todd.

Even without the Internet, he probably could have destroyed a few Dutch kids whose lives he is accused of damaging, if he is the perpetrator of the heinous acts of which he is accused.

But without social media and the Internet, he couldn’t have extended his reach thousands of kilometres out of Europe, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, more thousands of kilometres across Canada, to breathe the foul air of his existence into a vulnerable Coquitlam teenager attending school in Maple Ridge.

It’s hard to understand the malice that exists in such a leach-like person’s soul, and it’s hard to understand what vulnerability they latch onto – what makes their victims susceptible to their vile sense of empowerment.

Frankly, I never even try to imagine what goes through a loving parent’s mind after their child has been defiled by such an attack.

I just dearly hope that such thoughts are never crammed into the cracks and crannies of my mind… for surely my existence would explode into a million sharp-edged fragments that would tear everything that I am to shreds.

I have the deepest admiration for parents who withstand an assault of that kind… and still have the strength to seek real justice.

I can offer the opinion that Amanda Todd’s suicide, just across the Fraser River, was actually a homicide committed in Europe.

But it will take the courts – here, and perhaps in the Netherlands – to determine whether my emotion-ridden reaction has any basis in the cold, hard reality of law.

If it turns out that I’m right, then social media has been wielded as a murder weapon.

It’s not much different from shooting your co-worker with a shotgun, stabbing your neighbour with a knife, or bludgeoning your spouse to death with a hammer.

It’s just cleaner: no blood on your shirt – but just as much on your hands.

But before you silence your Twitter and unfriend everyone on Facebook, remember that shotguns are used to hunt ducks for the dinner table, we use knives for everything from cutting steaks to linoleum, and you can hardly build anything without at some point picking up a hammer.

Kids have friends all over the world these days.

Sure, we had pen pals – but “conversations” with them were spread out over weeks or months. You wrote a letter (or postcard, if you were lazy) which could take weeks to get to your pal, whose return letter you received weeks later, and you wrote back…

Now the kids keep in touch with text messaging, and send pictures (selfies that don’t take yet another week to get developed), all delivered in less time than it takes sunlight reflected off the moon to reach your eye.

Social media offers us (and our kids) a host of new and powerful tools – more powerful than guns and knives and hammers.

Just how powerful the new tools can be was exemplified in the Arab Spring – don’t judge the lack of immediate success against the value of what was accomplished… and the possibilities that those people have realized and doubtlessly will exercise again.

And again, if still necessary.

And then there’s that guy in Holland…

Misuse of powerful tools results in powerful consequences, so it’s important that we all learn how to use them properly.

And teach our kids.

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