February 8, 2012

The New Yorker Reports On Tyler Clementi's Suicide

This week, the New Yorker published a lengthy look at the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a 19-year-old Rutgers freshman who jumped off the GW Bridge in September 2010. Clementi's death, along with another highly publicized teen suicide that month, sparked the It Gets Better movement and increased awareness of "bullying" of gay and lesbian teenagers.

The New Yorker article focuses mainly on Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi.  Ravi famously spied on Clementi via webcam making out with another guy and then tweeted about his roommates' sexuality.  It is a tragic tale all around, as Ravi is now being tried on 15 counts of invasion of privacy, intimidation and harassment and could spend 5 to 10 years in jail.  Regardless of the   judicial outcome, his life will be haunted by this loss forever.

Reading the New Yorker story, the thing that struck me was the lack of communication between these two freshman who, though roommates for nearly a month, did not appear to speak to each other at all.  Legal issues aside, the real crime appears to be that they did not communicate.  There are a couple telling scenes where they are both sitting in their dorm room as they type away about each other on message boards, tweets, and IMs instead of actually speaking to one another about the issues that are coming up. And it's this lack of engagement with each other in the real world that seems to have led to an unnecessarily tragic outcome.

Clearly, Ravi is guilty of spying and then bragging about it on his Twitter account. But the true tragedy of this story and the one that seems endemic of the millennial generation is that these two roommates just did not make any attempt to communicate in real life. That to me is the real failure here and an alarming sign of the digital times as well. I hope this story serves as a strong warning to everyone buried in their electronic devices and living their lives online to look up, unplug and live your life...before it is too late.

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