[C]an the new media itself, in part, be blamed for such cases?
We are tempted to think that social-media technology drove the behavior, but as a truly ethical matter, the behavior has to be and should be considered human-driven, not technology-driven,
says Scott Foulkrod, a philosophy professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania. The school recently blocked the use of social media for a week to prompt discussions about its role in everyday life.
Other observers of youth culture and media culture believe the media environment including reality shows that use hidden cameras is desensitizing young people to the hurtful effects of their actions.
There have been some studies that suggest that it [new media technology] does dissolve some of the human connections: It objectifies people,
says Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, an education program based at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.
One recent University of Michigan study found that college students empathy declined by about 40 percent between 1979 and 2009, with the biggest drop-off occurring after 2000.
Were seeing more and more of this callous indifference, Ms. Aftab says. She doesnt want to paint a whole generation with a broad brush, because many young people are using social media only for good. But when malicious intent or even just a notion of entertainment is paired with the instant nature of Web-broadcasting technology, you can do it, and you get caught up in it, she says. Its that lack of time to contemplate the consequences.
Nina Montgomery, a freshman at Dartmouth who attended high school with Clementi in Ridgewood, N.J., says her generation of digital natives is getting bored and looking for ways to experiment with new technology. As a result, she believes, more cases as severe as this one at Rutgers will occur. I dont think people understand the great responsibility that comes with the power of the Internet, she says.