Let me say that I know very little about the sad events at Rutgers that led to the suicide of a promising young musician other than what I read in the newspaper. So I don’t want anyone to think that I am commenting on any of the young people involved. But this was the latest event that has made me wonder about the nature of privacy in a 24-7 world where everyone not only wants but has a shot of getting their 15 minutes of fame.
Of course, when you grow up where people are willing to do just about anything to be famous, including singing very badly, swallowing bugs, finding a spouse, or going through rehab, then perhaps it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe that the only thing that matters is to be a YouTube sensation. Maybe privacy is one of the ideals that will be sacrificed on the altar of instant celebrity and constant amusement.
But privacy squandered can never be retrieved or taken back in a do-over. College definitely is a time when we make stupid mistakes. And I still cringe over some of the things that I said and did during those years. Thank God, that I do not have to witness them being played online, an eternal visual display for those who would want to see my more stupid moments.
And even now, decades later, to think that anyone would have found it amusing to tape me in an intimate moment and show it to other people as some sort of joke horrifies me more than I can say. I don’t know if I ever would have recovered from such a betrayal.
And it is a betrayal. To take someone else’s private life and broadcast it without their permission is not just bad taste. It is betrayal of the worst kind. Just because people get paid money for it when those tapes are of celebrities does not make any less so.
We live in a society where some people clamor and climb over each other for their few minutes of celebrity. And for some reason, we sometimes reward this behavior with money and fame. And we have every right to participate in this if we choose. But we have no right to drag others in with us against their will and without their knowledge.