In movies and reality, Internet helps mean kids be meaner
By RICHARD ROEPER April 14, 2013 7:26PM
Updated: April 14, 2013 9:32PM
The whole thing starts with a fleeting moment of eye contact in a shopping mall.
Early in the four-star movie “Disconnect,” two teenage skateboard punks (Colin Ford as Jason and Aviad Bernstein as Frye) cackle wildly as they witness the payoff moment of a nasty practical joke involving a weightlifter and a bottle of energy drink that no longer contains energy drink.
(SPOILER ALERT. We are going to go deep into the storyline here.)
As the boys are laughing it up, they notice a strange-looking kid staring at them. It’s pretty obvious he knows what they did.
“What are you looking at!” comes the challenge, and the kid slinks away.
Doesn’t take long for Jason and Frye to discover the identity of the boy, Ben — and to learn a lot more about him via his social network profile page.
Jason and Frye create a false identity, a cute, possibly somewhat nerdy, fellow loner type who shares Ben’s taste in music.
From across the cafeteria at their high school, Jason and Frye can’t contain their laughter as they watch Ben’s reactions to texts that go from friendly to warm to sexually suggestive.
When it comes time for the “girl” to send Ben a nude photo — not a problem. The boys know there are literally millions of such pictures floating around the Internet.
We can see a potential tragedy coming here. Before it all comes crashing down, all three lives, and the lives of their families, will be forever altered.
And through it all, the only time — the only time — Jason and Frye and Ben are ever actually face-to-face is that brief encounter at the mall.
We’re all (dis)connected
The Internet brings out the smartest, the best, the dumbest and the worst in humanity.
In the worst/dumbest category: Jealous cowards hammer out hateful, sometimes threatening comments reacting to tweets, Facebook postings and blog entries. Gangbangers brag about crimes they’re going to commit. High school students mercilessly taunt the kid who rides the bus alone and doesn’t have any friends.
And rapists post videos and photos of the horrific crimes they’ve recently committed.
On the day “Disconnect” was released, we were reading about Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old student at Saratoga High School in Northern California who committed suicide eight days after she was assaulted by three boys, one of whom took a photo of the attack and posted it online.
As the photo circulated among Audrie’s classmates, she said on her Facebook page, “[This is] the worst day ever. The whole school knows. My life is like ruined now.”
So as horrific as the attack was, it was the posting and circulation of the photo that may have been the trigger, or certainly the tipping point, for Audrie to take her own life.
The suspects were arrested last week and charged with sexual battery and distribution of unlawful material. If they’re guilty, it’s difficult to imagine a punishment that would be too harsh.
Meanwhile, a Canadian teen who tried to commit suicide by hanging herself was taken off life support last week. She had been mortified to learn someone had posted a photo of her being gang-raped. Just a few weeks prior to that, two Steubenville, Ohio, football players were convicted of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl in a case that might never have come to light if photos of the assault hadn’t been posted.
These crimes are shocking. The stupidity of the criminals is stunning. Why the perpetrators — who are young enough to never have known a time when there wasn’t social media — are so disconnected, so dull-witted, they’d post visual evidence of their crime as some sort of sick trophy moment is beyond the comprehension of the normally functioning human mind and soul. As much as we’d all like to erase these horrible crimes from existence, I supposed we should be grateful these idiots willingly provide their own ticket to conviction.
Two days after Pott’s suicide, students and teachers at Saratoga High wore her favorite color, teal. One wonders if some of the students who wore teal, some of the students expressing grief on her Facebook appreciation page, some of the students planning to attend an April 19 vigil in Audrie’s honor, might have been among those who forwarded the photo of Audrie being assaulted.
Audrie Pott was passed out drunk when the assaults occurred. When she woke up, she knew something terrible had happened — but she didn’t know who had done it to her.
It was only when the photo circulated that Audrie was able to identify her attackers.
She knew them. She considered them friends.
“Worst day ever,” she wrote on her Facebook age.
Worst day ever.