Commentary

The Blurred Line

Over spring break, Alexandra Wallace’s viral Youtube video titled “Asians in the Library” was brought to my attention through various links on Facebook, news articles, and emails. This short five-minute rant that included many politically incorrect comments about Asian students at UCLA and caused controversy around the nation. The video brought up many cultural issues, including how our freedom of speech is affected by aggressive and possibly offensive Internet use. I’ve heard many argue that although Alexandra’s video was offensive and racially ignorant, it was her right to say whatever she pleased on YouTube because she was practicing her rights as an American citizen. Although I agree that upholding our rights as American citizens is important, we must also remember everyday etiquette and the fact that we are responsible for all of our actions, even if they are online. In the 21st century, the voices of ordinary people can be magnified louder than ever before due to the technological advances of the last decade. The web has made it possible for us, without any proof of experience or reason, to reach an international audience through blogs, Facebook, YouTube and various other sites These online tools are both useful and essential to the world we live in; however, the problem with the web is that we sometimes forget the mass publicity of our actions. Because words on websites are not physically on a piece of paper in front of us, there is a disconnect between what is said online and what would actually be said in person, in an article or on broadcast television. Because we can hide behind our computer screens and not actually come into contact with our audience, it sometimes feels safer to say whatever we please without much regard for the gravity of our actions. Being in this highly advanced, technology-addicted world, the rules of etiquette have become blurry. What is appropriate to be said on Twitter? In what circumstances is it acceptable to text? Is it polite to upload all those really embarrassing photos of your friend from last weekend onto Facebook? The world is changing, and so are all the codes of conduct our parents were taught. We cannot presume that the old rules apply, and I believe that as time goes on, we will be able to establish a more widely accepted set of manners that will regulate and judge our actions made in the digital world. Today, however, the rules of Internet behavior are still a bit murky, as evidenced by Wallace’s ignorant YouTube outburst. Until then, however, we must become our own regulators and remember that all our actions, whether they are made offline or online, have consequences. Maybe we need to learn to be scrupulously careful about our actions online until terms of polite use are agreed upon, but those developments will only come with time. Until then, we all must remember that words cannot be thrown out cavalierly just because we do not see the faces that we impact, and just because we have our freedom of speech intact. If we continue to believe that what we do online has no impact on the world around us, the progress we have made on improving racial tolerance, gender equality and other cultural movements might be lost, and whole groups of people may be hurt and offended for just a few ill-conceived words and a webcam. Technology should be what propels us forward and not what pushes us back, and although it is a convenient thing to have on our side, we must also remember to always take caution and use it responsibly. Christiana Nguyen is a two-year Lower from Vancouver, WA.