Home videos have served as the premise for TV games shows. Police officers use secret video tapings for surveillance which can later be presented as evidence in a court of law. YouTube allows anyone with a camera to become filmmakers. Video taping in movies such as "Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield" actually made the video camera a cast member in their features. In turn, social media opened up channels to share videos via social networking sites globally.
In a world where sex tapes have become a viable career move for fringe reality stars, the use of a video camera for ulterior motives is becoming so commonplace, that today's youth sees it as an acceptable means to an end, no matter what the outcome. Such is the sensibility that led Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei to feel no guilt when live-streaming video of a private encounter of one of their fellow students at Rutgers University.
According to an ABC report, the two students have been charged with illegally recording Tyler Clementi having sex with another male and broadcasting it live via an Internet chat program. To gain a wider audience they then tweeted the following…
Two days later to gain more attention, they tweeted the following…
The subsequent suicide death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi by jumping off the George Washington Bridge was the result of using social media with criminal intent. However, as with all tools of this type, they can also be used to elevate, and several known newscasters and celebrities are stepping up to address how victims of hate crimes can seek help.
Sex advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage launched a YouTube channel titled "It Gets Better" in response to yet another hate crime that involved Indiana teenager Billy Lucas who committed suicide after being bullied by his classmates.
This video campaign was initially in response to the increasing number of reports pertaining to gay teens in rural areas committing suicide in the wake of extreme bullying and discrimination from their peers. The message: Life seems difficult now, but there are greater opportunities to live openly without fear of abuse just a few years down the line, so it’s important not to lose hope.
Savage's description of his video is detailed here and more can be found on his blog, "Savage Love."
Each of the videos posted to the "It Gets Better" YouTube channel will feature a role model sharing personal experiences that illustrate that life for gays and lesbians improves over time, when people seek out resources for help.
Other celebrities including Neil Patrick Harris from "How I Met Your Mother" and Ellen DeGeneres are joining in by issuing their own messages.
Hate crime is a horrendous act. Using social media tools to commit those acts is deplorable - but unfortunately a fact of life. Knowing the inherent power of social media, it is incumbent on all us to use these same tools to counter these types of crimes from becoming widespread. People like Savage, Harris and DeGeneres are the first role models finding some light in the darkness. Hopefully there will me hundreds and thousands more that will take their lead.