Thursday, December 4, 2008

Should MySpace and Facebook be used to Profile Potential Societal Threats?

"I can imagine a world of love, peace and no wars. Then, I imagine myself attacking that place because they would never expect it." These are words written by Ryan Patrick Hare, one of four Panther Creek High School students charged with the murder of Matthew Silliman, on his MySpace page. Hare, 18 along with Allegra Rose Dahlquist, 17, Aadil Shahid Khan, 17, and Drew Logan Shaw, 16, were arrested Wednesday and are being held in the Wake County jail. All four teens have been denied bond. Khan’s MySpace page describes himself as an anarchist that does not fit into any social group. These types of expressions pulled from the pages of social media sites like MySpace and Facebook after a horrific crime has occurred could have easily been identified earlier and possibly prevented the senseless death of Matthew Silliman. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. It is easy to go over a person’s profile after they have committed an act so heinous that it draws the attention it appears that they are craving. The two boys quoted earlier had their comments open for public viewing. Words have power and, “death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21. Who, in their social network, was responsible for alerting someone that could help? Was it the parents, coaches, counselors or police? Maybe it was the community but why didn’t we act?
Many parents that are old enough to have children that are in their late teens have no interest in MySpace or Facebook. The internet for many people in that age group is for online banking, consumer research, product purchases, checking sports sites like ESPN and checking email. This has to change. We can not expect teenagers to say to their parents, counselors, and coaches what they will say freely to their friends. This insight is freely expressed online because it is the last place they expect their parents to go. Children and young adults can develop such a connection with the online communities that they can not live without them. This was the case with a Mesa, Arizona teenager who murdered his father because his access to MySpace was limited. In the past it was said that it takes a village to raise a child. The village has now gone cyber and parents are on the outside looking in along with the guidance counselors and coaches. In the movie the Matrix, Neo along with the other characters looked different once they entered the matrix or cyberspace. Once inside the matrix they became the internal reflection of themselves that was not manifested in the real world. I encourage parents, pastors, teachers, counselors, coaches and concerned neighbors to enter into the MySpace world and educate themselves about the real people behind the facades that live amongst them. If we learn without condemning and express a concerned view, we may be able to prevent the next catastrophe.

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