Monday 20 June 2011

Self-expression, Belonging, and Respect – Is Taking Risks Part of it?

Seeing someone walking up the leaning tower in Pisa with shoes that were clearly not designed for this situation I wondered about the risks people take in live. We recently had a discussion (with other parents) on the risks kids take today in the digital world – put up regrettable pictures flickr, liking a politically incorrect site on facebook, or posting silly things on twitter.

I sometimes feel in these discussions that I want to put things into perspective… We do a lot of things that are not reasonable in order to express ourselves and to present an image to our peer group (e.g. tattoos and piercings are common and there are risks associated). We want to belong to a group and hence we do things that are expected by our peers or even to impress them (e.g. doing a skateboard trick without protection or skiing where it is not allowed). If think hard there are probably many things you remember where you took major risks (when you were young)…  On TV I saw a yesterday night a documentary on the Hippie movement in the 1960/1970. In comparison to the risks young people took in order to change the world (or to just be different and accepted in their peer group) the risks you take on the Internet seem very tame…

There is a further point we can learn from this: eventually society (and the law) will catch up and some of the innovations will stay and change society. But some will no be accepted… People need to explore boundaries – otherwise progress is unlikely.

For many people who have explored boundaries in 1970ies (ranging from drugs to violence – in a way we have agreed today is completely unacceptable) this has not hindered their careers. People generally see actions in context…  Hence having the “wrong” photo on facebook is probably not harming someone’s career (but probably the time they spend on facebook rather than revising for exams may).