The Most Depressing Thing Happening In Digital Right Now

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Yesterday it was about how great Kickstarter is. Today is about how big of a kick in the gut the Internet can be.

What, exactly, did Karen Klein do to deserve the publicity that she is now getting? The 68-year-old bus monitor got verbally abused by a group of middle school kids from Athena Middle School in Greece, New York. A ten minute video of said abuse gets posted to YouTube, and now the world gets to see the underbelly of how some people behave. Why has this one, particular, video come to the attention of our world? Max Sidorov saw the video and wanted to do something about it (like have the online community fund a vacation for this woman). Well, his humane act has now raised almost $300,000 dollars (you can help out, read the full story and even watch the disturbing video right here: Lets Give Karen -The bus monitor- H Klein A Vacation!). So yes, the Internet (and social media) have helped, but it has also – once again – demonstrated that we – as a society – have a long way to go.

Why this? Why now?

I tend to not speak about my personal life all that much. I tend to keep the content here focused on the world of media and marketing. But, as the father of young children, these types of antics terrify me. My kids aren’t old enough for the school bus yet and I am doing my best – each and every day – to keep them as innocent and sheltered from things like hate, violence and bad language as possible. You would be surprised how difficult that is in our current world. To think that they may have to endure a berating like this or sit idly by as others act this way causes me to have deep anxiety.

The most depressing thing happening in digital right now…

Is that because anyone can have a thought and publish it in text, images, audio and video that we wind up seeing the hate that people have. It’s amazing how much evolution we’ve had because of technology and how little evolution has seeped through to people. I’m about to get preachy here (so, if you’re looking for my regular marketing blather, please come back tomorrow)…

We are…

  • One species.
  • Regardless of race.
  • Regardless of color.
  • Regardless of gender.
  • Regardless of sexual preference.
  • Regardless of physical appearance.
  • Regardless of borders.
  • Regardless of religions.
  • Regardless of faith.
  • Regardless of vocation.
  • Regardless of income.
  • Regardless of social class.

We all…

  • Are created the same.
  • Bleed the same.
  • Smile the same.
  • Die the same.
  • Laugh the same.
  • Think the same.
  • Eat the same.
  • Starve the same.

There are no differences.

We spend too much time attempting to find common ground between people, without realizing that the common ground is that we are all human beings. It’s innate. We tend to forget about it. We’re here for a short time (and hopefully a good time) and yet, we can’t help but subjugate, judge, demean and do other nasty things to one another. Why? We are no better than the animals, some might think. It is, simply, not true. We have consciousness. We are aware of our own self and mortality. And, while he/she who dies with the most toys may win, ask yourself why this should be done at the detriment to others? Karen Klein makes $16,000 a year doing a job that (I bet) she never dreamed she would be doing when she was as young as the kids who are insulting her in this video. I spend a good chunk of my day acknowledging that I hit the genetic lottery (being born in North America with a lot of significant opportunities that others don’t have). Videos like this remind me that we need to become much better guards at the gates of our brains and mouths. I realize that we have war, strife and starvation happening all over the world, and that none of it truly makes any sense, but Karen’s story reminded me that if we’re going to take those important first steps, they may as well be in our own homes.

Kiss your kids tonight… and remind them that we’re all created equal.

(back to the marketing banter tomorrow… I promise).


  1. Well said. I kept myself from seeing the video because the idea of it just disgusts me. After reading your post, I finally decided to see the horror that is this kind of bullying. It’s painful to watch and listen to, and disturbing that the “group think” sets in where everyone jumps in because they’ve been given permission to, and no one steps up to stop it. I truly hope that this being brought to light, along with the numerous other instances of bullying recently in the news, will shine the light on the cruelty of some people. Thanks for using your visibility to provide commentary on this horrible subject.

  2. I appreciate the optimistic idea. I can get behind and support. But isn’t reality, since the beginning of history… that we behave the way we behave. Technology is not going to change behavior.
    Just because there is technology, digital and social media does not mean humans are all-of-a-sudden “better”. And my opinion, it might make us more closed minded.
    Right-wingers find right-winger blogs and new sites… to fit their “idea” of the world.
    Leftists hang out on leftist websites, talking about leftist stuff.
    Do you really feel like human behavior can evolve?

  3. I can’t even watch the video…
    I was a victim of harassment from my classmates during middle school and high school. At the time, it was horrific to experience, but after my parents pulled me out of the school and I started over (with many friends made), I never forgot those experiences and always made it a point to befriend everyone in my class – no matter how “dorky” they were.
    I have three children of my own and have been plotting for a while to do whatever I can to keep them just uncool enough to be out of the cool crowd during middle school and high school.
    But, at the end of the day, I fear we can only control so much.
    This is an incredibly blog post – you are a fearless blogger and an amazing father, I am sure.

  4. “have been plotting for a while to do whatever I can to keep them just uncool enough to be out of the cool crowd during middle school and high school.”… some of the best parenting advice I have ever heard. Thank you!

  5. really sad state of affairs…starting with our youth. We need to remember we are all human beings and need to get back to basics with the good ole “golden rule.”

  6. This makes me sick to my stomach. Parents are responsible. These kids are animals they need to be brought to account for their actions.
    I really cannot find the words to describe how this make me feel except no way would my children ever behave in this way. And that makes me proud. I have done my job and ingrained in them that we are all equal.
    Thank you for the reminder about what matters.

  7. Great parenting often goes out of the window as young children try to assert their individualism. I’d love to think that you’re right, but I’m often shocked to see how sweet toddlers with great parents behave in a park when the backs are turned.

  8. Mitch, as a mom & someone who was also sickened by this, thank you for your post. I really hope those kids will realize how awful & ugly their actions were.

  9. Yes… we don’t have cable TV and will never buy brand clothing. And that’s the extent of my plan. Hoping it works. Oh, and lots and lots of books.

  10. Any parent who allows their kids to behave with such disrespect should be ashamed of themselves. Then again, perhaps we should consider the source. Appalling.

  11. This is so well written and beautiful to read Mitch. Thank you. It’s nice to see that the most depressing thing happening in digital right now has turned into a positive for this woman. Like some others here, I haven’t watched the video. I can’t. For the same reason I can’t watch the daily news on tv anymore. I once heard a celebrity (I’ll not say who) say in an interview “Bad news happens every day – you can open your door and be hit by bad news constantly. It’s the good stuff that’s hard to find and it’s the good news that I strive to look for.” So it’s nice to see some good news shared and some positive energy spread.

  12. I hear you Mitch. I agree with that sentiment. But ultimately tracing this type of behavior is really very simple. You touch on the reasons in your post. We have lost all sense of respect and responsibility, our media, governments and parents have to take responsibility. What we see in that video is not individualism, it is the pack mentality. I have no doubt whatsoever that you as a parent will not allow your children to become inebriated on hate of this nature. Ultimately our children will make their own choices but we can set a precedent by helping them develop strong values and principles. This all starts with us in our homes. They go out in the world but we can mitigate it’s impact by showing them our love and bringing them up right.

  13. TThis is just so sad. I can’t bear to watch things like this. It makes me ask how can some people, even at very young age, become so numb to the feelings of others.

  14. My wife and I have spent many hours educating our children in self-respect and respect for others – that they have a personal philosophy of 100% responsibility. To reinforce this they have spent time feeding the homeless and working on behalf of those less fortunate. We reinforce that they should be less greatful for what they have and more greatful that they are able to give back. The sad thing is they are usually the only young people participating in these events. Our 17 year old son will be volunteering 75 hours between August and the end of the year. Our 13 year old daughter will also be involved in numerous charity works the remainder of the year as well. In many ways they are naive to the world and that’s ok. We feel their participation in charity work has helped to keep them focused on something other than themselves. It has also fostered strong self-esteem by seeing the good that comes from helping others and being a positive force to those in need. It’s probably not for everybody, but it seems to have worked well for ours.

  15. I watched less than 10 seconds and thought I would throw up. I don’t live in an ivory tower or the land of Pollyanna, but even those few seconds make me wonder…how can this happen? In a day and age of “global community” and connection, with more information at our fingertips than ever before, how can this go on?
    It goes to prove that information isn’t knowledge.
    Common courtesy isn’t common.
    Good manners seem to be a “thing of the past”.
    The “golden rule” appears to be extinct…
    at least in this example.
    I’m blessed to have children who still say please and thank you, abide by the rule “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say it”, treat others as you wish to be treated, and respect everyone. I tell my adult children I love them every time we speak, and I’m happy to say, they don’t need the reminder:)

  16. glad you engaged this tough subject, Mitch. Human nature isn’t going to change, but in our new world we do have a much larger audience to consider now that we are connected online to people who were once out of reach. Wanting to be significant runs deep in us, and causes terrible things to be said or typed. Since we see fallen behavior even in sweet toddlers, and in ourselves, how do we “become better guards at the gates of our brains and mouths”?

  17. Wow you struck as much of a cord with me as the viral video and so many thoughts are racing around my head mostly how grateful I am for this digital age. The bullying of this grandmother is I would bet something that happens a lot in the world and in the past we’d never hear about it. It would have to be really sensational for mainstream media to give it attention possibly with the confluence of a slow news day. But in this digital age where all of us make the news I think something extraordinary is either happening or about to happen.
    We are all becoming more conscious human beings.
    If consciousness exists in humanity nested in levels of awareness, evolution of that awareness takes experience and a connected society that informs itself to make changes. In the past that feedback loop would take generations or centuries for the information to inform a society at large or the niches of it’s conscience to consequently evolve. My belief is that episodes like that viral video is accelerating the process of evolving consciousness. Today I bet the trending topic at kitchen tables and classrooms alike are finding parents or teachers informing the children about what it means to be a human being. Another lesson is now quickly updating humanity’s database of awareness and consciousness. It won’t take a generation. I hold out hope that bullying behaviour soon becomes something in the past.

  18. Wonderful subject, especially for marketers. Because, really, what is more important than focusing on why we’re here? To help others. Sometimes we have our clients’ needs foremost in our thoughts but it’s so important to be reminded of the larger picture, our common humanity, and the vital necessity to “teach our children well.”
    I actually hadn’t heard of this incident (will watch the video soon). But here are a couple of stories that reaffirm my faith in human decency. And the future. The links should be under glass that says “when you feel like giving up, click here.”
    Social media are just tools. The bad stuff–and all the good–is the same as always. Because fear creates need, negativity (classified as “news”) is exploited to sell things.
    So the challenge is to rise above all the sad negative messages out there. That takes work, but it’s necessary work. And it can help us reaffirm our hopes and dreams for a better world for all.
    Okay, I’m stepping off the soapbox now.

  19. Wait, what planet are you living on?
    Are created the same.
    Not quite. Some people are born to loving relationships, others are created through assault and violence. Perhaps on a basic biological level (but even then, males and females vary, I assure you, as do the many children born with ambiguous genitals, twin, preemies, etc.).
    Bleed the same.
    Not hemophliliacs! Or people born or who have acquired autoimmune disorders.
    Smile the same.
    Cleft palates can hamper this. And not every culture’s facial expressions translate across the board.
    Die the same.
    Again, perhaps you can say on a biological level 9though the jury’s still out on exactly what happens when we die). Some people are murdered. Some people are kept alive, suffering, against their will. Some people die alone without any resources or community. Some die convinced they’ll be in Hell for eternity.
    Laugh the same.
    They literally don’t. And maybe mute people.
    Think the same.
    Again, not quite. Even if you put IQs aside, there is ample evidence that different people’s brains work differently, especially if they’ve had injuries or genetic abnormalities. And you can’t underestimate the influence of upbringing and culture. To imagine that someone half way across the world can perceive a situation as you do – or halfway up the block – is naive.
    Eat the same.
    No. Go ask an anorexic. Or someone going through chemo. Or someone who survives on so little food, once they actually get some they will make themselves sick if they have too much. Compare an American inhaling fast food in 20 seconds and a French family spreading dinner out over two hours. Food is so culturally loaded, this statement is just silly. (Note: Even ‘everybody poops’ doesn’t work when you factor in colostomy bags.)
    Starve the same.
    See above. Assuming everyone’s bodily functions shut down the same way, the conditions creating starvation are not the same in urban America as they are in Sudan.
    So, yes, everyone help everyone. Kumbaya. No one’s arguing that. But if these are the assumptions you’re making right off the bat, you’ll never get anywhere.

  20. Too true. It actually makes me feel better to imagine that these hyenas come from bad, broken homes and don’t know any better. Then I think back to some of the awful things I said and did as a kid (nothing this severe, thank god), and wonder how the age of YouTube and Facebook would have changed things…. not pretty. In fact, while I don’t doubt a good portion of donations came from the formerly bullied – I am also in that camp – part of me thinks a good portion also came from anyone reminded, like me, how cruel kids can be. Including themselves.

  21. It’s all about daily lessons not specific interventions, at least it was our case Mitch.
    Here’s to expecting/hoping the same for your young family.

  22. Thanks for taking the time out from marketing to write about such an important issue. Often I wonder if writers such as yourself feel confined by their chosen area of expertise and struggle to deviate from that. Based on the comments here, your article has struck a nerve and you have proven that you can occasionally deviate from your blog’s primary topics and provide a platform for real discussion. It’s nice to see the person behind the articles, even just from time to time. Thank you for presenting the topic so eloquently and for raising awareness.
    “We need to become much better guards at the gates of our brains and mouths.” Don’t we ever.

  23. Mitch, this is great you would bring to attention to your readers so they can be a part of project. This project is on Indiegogo, which some might not notice since you commented at top about Kickstarter.
    It is amazing to see the out pouring of love and concern.

  24. Well said Mitch! I agree with Rob. It is bullying on a mob level. The mob mentality seems to take over and then you have even good kids who would never do such things engaging because “everyone else is”. We have to teach our kids to be much stronger than that. We have to teach them to stand up and stop such behavior. Some would say that is bad advice because then we are putting our kids at risk but what about doing the right thing….seems fewer and fewer people are inclined to do so these days.

  25. Mitch, very nicely said. I understand your reluctance to deviate from your regular blog topics of marketing and media, but I think this post is one of your most relevant. There is and (I hope) always will be a human side to communication be it digitally enhanced or otherwise. The day we forget that, is the day we should all pack up.

  26. The level of engagement with this post says you’ve made a difference. Evil thrives when we say nothing. Speak out and use your voice….if it has a marketing following….all the better! They’re gonna spread this message!

  27. Mitch,
    I agree with your comments, but I’m not sure a vacation is what that woman deserves. I’m still trying to figure out why she didn’t stand up at some point during the trip, call them to task for their behavior, tell them they’re a disgrace to their parents, and let them know they’d be called to task by the principal and their families the next day.
    My son has just left middle school and if he had been part of that, he would be having a very ugly summer indeed.

  28. Mitch you are a really kind and decent human being. Not from this post. From reading your blog your podcats your spots on the beancast even long time back from email exchanges.
    What gets me is our short attention span. This stuff happens a lot. What doesn’t usually happen is the kick starter response of good will. Normally we drop our jaw, get outraged…for like 2 minutes…then move on.
    It really starts with the parents. Raising a 1 yr old right now I know it is going to be hard when she is away out of my safety. Glad you wrote this.

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