Analog adults, digital kids clash

One night recently there was a light snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area and some high school students apparently felt they should have a snow day. When it didn't happen, one high school senior reportedly took it upon himself to get on the phone and call his school system's chief operating officer to find out why school wasn't shut down for the day. The COO's wife picked up the phone. She was "understandably miffed about the invasion into her private sphere, yet she returns fire with a shockingly disproportionate blast of rage," the Washington Post reports. But of course in these days of the user-driven Web that wasn't the end of it. According to the original Post story on the subject, the COO's wife called the student back and left a message that berated him "for using the home number and told him to 'Get over it, kid, and go to school!' [The student then] posted an audio link to his Facebook page, and a friend uploaded the message on YouTube. Within days, it was played tens of thousands of times on the Web and aired on national news." Both action and reaction are understandable and neither can fathom each other's perspective – one is hyper-public all the time and never not accessible via cellphone, social Web site, IM, etc., and knows no lines that might be crossed; the other actually has a "home phone" probably wired to a wall and another kind of line that was very definitely crossed by a young person she'd never met. The really tough part is, "she could not have imagined that her righteous tirade would be enshrined on the Web and on Page One of The Washington Post." It's getting harder to react badly to a situation in private, but having said all the above and published the story, the Post does say that "even today, most teens wouldn't dare call a school administrator at home." Columnist Marc Fisher adds that this kid was out to push buttons. What's different now is that he really did get a lot of attention.

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