By Stephanie Vacchio
This past week, a student from Rutgers University committed suicide after his roommate streamed live footage of him engaging in sexual acts with another man on the internet. When I first heard about this story I was in complete disbelief; implanting a secret camera and filming someone while they are being intimate is an invasion of privacy and against the law. Implanting a camera and filming someone because seeing two gay men together makes for good entertainment is simply ignorant.
It was hard for me to fathom that someone would be so directly malicious towards someone else. The students involved in the live streaming of the video should be incredibly ashamed and remorseful because what they did was wrong. But they also present a strong point—how private can “private” possibly get on a small college campus?
This story is one that represents the extreme—most students would not go this far to directly hurt someone (I would hope). Much of the oversharing that occurs on this campus happens by way of casual conversation. After the weekend, students get together to recap what happened; this is when the boundaries of privacy slowly begin to blur. Students share their own happenings with friends, but they also tend to include the happenings of other students on campus as well.
I will admit that I have gossiped about other students; I know very well that their business is not my business and that I have no right to share it. It’s private—between whoever was involved—and it should stay that way unless they ask me to broadcast it. That being said, I have done it anyway—we all do it anyway. Similar to the students in the aforementioned story, we usually don’t take the time to stop and think about what we are about to share. We don’t think about how violating someone’s privacy could hurt them. Or anger them. Or make them feel ashamed.
One small rumor or one small slip of a story that you aren’t sure you should share could be incredibly hurtful— but gossiping is almost perpetual on a small college campus where everyone knows everyone else. Students who come to college looking for a fresh start are often hindered by the ghosts of their past after others find out what they are trying so desperately to hide. Something you may think is innocuous may be the worst thing in the world to someone else. There is no possible way you can judge whether or not sharing a story you heard about another student will hurt them or will leave them unaffected—and nor do you have the right to.
But gossiping is something that cannot be monitored. There is no filter but the one we put on ourselves. And without a filter, lives can potentially be ruined. Everyone can control what they choose to say, which means that everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions. Stop and think who you are going to hurt when you share something you know you shouldn’t.
In the case of the students in the Rutgers incident, they not only hurt their peer, but in the end they hurt themselves as well.