Monday, February 18, 2013

What's Your Internet Identity Have Against You?

           You meet someone, hit it off, become friends on Facebook. You look at all their pictures, read all their statuses (even “like” a few of them), and listen to all the songs that they post. Once you meet in person, you get along very well. One thing feels odd, you already know a lot about each other’s lives because of the wealth of information Facebook supplies. On the one hand, it’s different to not get to know someone in person for the first time. At the same time, the two of you have already made it past the awkward stage and already have a lot to talk about, so many stories to tell. It cannot be forgotten, though, the fact that information one learns on Facebook is information written by the person as part of their online identity, and it’s often a distorted picture.
            This person may be a friend, it may be a potential significant other, or it may just be some weirdo. The point is everything you know about them at the start is based on how they want to be viewed, on what they want you to know. This is not wrong in itself on some sort of moral basis, that is, its breaking from tradition does not make it bad. It cannot be ignored, however, that the more traditional way of using one’s powers of observation, rhetoric, and the randomness of unplanned run-ins can teach one a lot more about a person a lot more quickly than a person’s contrived profile. Interactions with people may not be as perfect (a person may be sweating profusely in gym clothing, while the other is hungover with last night’s eyeliner smudged), but the decision to have that cup of coffee together will definitely be more interesting than a casual viewing of someone’s latest tagged pictures.
            To me, it feels like instead of hiding behind the identity we have built for ourselves (or has been built of us) on Facebook, it is important to try our best to show our true selves to people when we interact with them in person. If possible, to shatter the preconceived opinion and judgment someone has made of us. Even given this, it is still important (for social and professional lives) to have a nice profile on Facebook, one that shows who you are and what you are all about in the best possible light. This is because nowadays, the first thing any normal person is going to do when they are deciding whether they want to see you again or hire you is check out your profile on Facebook. So as contrary as it may seem to characterize Facebook as “important bullshit”, I think there is something to be said for it. It means nothing and can tell you very little about a person’s actual character or story, but its existence is important to put you on the same plane as everyone else of this generation and in this world. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Can We All Live and Breath Today with a Living and Breathing Document?


          Writing in the form of a printed and bound book traditionally has an inherent authority. This authority is a result of an assumed verification and editing process that the author of the work had to go through, proving it was factual and relevant. However, a factual piece of work can transform into something in need of adjustment or replacement, once it has spent years on the shelf. When an old text such as the Constitution of the United States of America keeps serious authority in the domain of the law over the years, the relevance and influence of such a document must continue to be checked.
            How, in a world that changes so swiftly and completely, can the essential law of the land not also live, breathe, and evolve with us? The outstanding battle over how authority of the historical text should be exercised in the United States occurs prominently between those who adhere to originalism—a term which includes original intent and original meaning—and those who believe in a living constitution. A living constitution means a document which is dynamic and changeable, the reasoning being that the old context that the constitution was written in cannot apply to new policy created today and asserts that the framers wrote it using vague terminology in order to allow it to evolve with the new country. This struggle of doctrine exists within the institution of the Judiciary, where the Supreme Court interprets and manipulates the constitution. Their execution of case law keeps the constitution alive, but whether it is written in stone or changeable causes much debate.
            It is difficult for a democratic country with a rich and wrought history to honor its past and also make room for its future. Many countries reach democracy after years of struggle, and the resulting constitution is written and viewed as instructions for freedom and human rights for their citizens. A constitution can serve as a guideline for the enactment and continuation of many characteristics of a sovereign state, but perhaps a guideline for how a constitution can smoothly evolve into the future is also required. For example, the United Kingdom, although it follows an “unwritten constitution”, still adheres to the authority of precedent presented by their books of authority. These books are a way to honor the history of its courts which date back to the medieval period, whose original intent there is no way of verifying. The far younger country of Canada uses the living tree doctrine to interpret its constitution, an approach which requires reading the constitution broadly to allow for smooth change and progress.
            All this is not to say that old text and bound books should not have any clout, a compliance with a collection of such laws create an invaluable environment of order. When that order is interrupted, however, individuals begin to condemn or commend an aged and somewhat irrelevant document. Attention and energy is then wasted discussing intention and interpretation instead of moving forward to create a safe and just environment for us all today.