I haven’t written anything about the tragic shootings at VA Tech in this blog primarily because I have deliberately tried to ignore all the news about that event. I’m not minimizing the impact of the tragedy at all. Rather, it just strikes too close to home for me. I used to be a Student Affairs administrator at a college in Massachusetts, and as I heard about this event, as well as others like it, I think, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I."
I was working at this MA college when a student at neighboring college, Wayne Lo of Simon’s Rock College (Great Barrington, MA), shot and wounded 4 people and killed 2 others in December 1992. That entire incident freaked me out, and it didn’t even happen at the college where I worked.
So, the VA Tech incident brings up lots of painful memories, many of which I’d rather forget, like the argument I got into with the VP of Student Affairs over a gun search I authorized of a student’s room. He informed me that I had violated that student’s rights and that I put the school at jeopardy for being sued. I replied that I’d rather be sued for that than have to deal with dead bodies as they did at Simon’s Rock. I think that was the end of the argument. About a year after that incident, I resigned from my position, as I was completely fried with trying to do what was sound for students while trying to watch out for the greater good all at once.
In yesterday’s Houston Chronicle I read a story about how young adults are mourning these days — and it’s not at a funeral home or at a cemetery. It’s online at a version of MySpace for the dead, called appropriately enough, MyDeathSpace.com. This site is getting much coverage because it contains memorials and tributes to the slain students of VA Tech.
In the article, site owner Michael Patterson writes, "I started my Web site after reading an article about two teenage
sisters who were killed by their father. I found MySpace pages for the
girls and read the heartbreaking postings by their friends. I wondered
how many more MySpace users had died young. After reading of a few more
local deaths, I started to notice that the majority of the deaths were
the result of automobile accidents and drunken driving. I founded my
site with the hope that it could be an eye-opening experience for
teenagers and might save a few lives.
Based on the number of visitors we get per day — between 15,000 and
20,000 unique visitors and more than 200,000 page views — other people
are also interested in seeing MySpace pages that function as obituaries."
It’s beginning to seem that the "virtual" world is becoming more real than the "real" world for teens and young adults. To what degree does this "virtual reality" lead to people’s inability to socialize and get along in the real world, at school, at work, at home?
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