It never ceases to amaze me how some stories come out of nowhere to become media blitzes, like the ongoing Fairfax, Virginia snow-day-Youtube-debacle. But while this story may appear quirky and insignificant, it raises real questions about the rift between parents’ generation and teenagers, questions of respect and boundaries, and the increasingly scarce commodity of genuine privacy.
The story, in a nutshell as reported by the Washington Post, is this: When the chief operating officer of Fairfax County schools opted not to cancel school after three inches had fallen (insert your own joke about Southerners’ irrational fear of snow here), a high school senior called the official on his listed home number, and questioned why he had not closed school, requesting a call back and leaving his name and number. While the school official didn’t call the student back, his wife did, and scolded the student for bothering them at home.
The Post reported the message left by the official’s wife, Candy Tistadt, as saying: “How dare you call us at home! If you have a problem with going to school, you do not call somebody’s house and complain about it,” her minute-long message began. At one point, she uttered the phrase “snotty-nosed little brats,” and near the end, she said, “Get over it, kid, and go to school!”
The YouTube video is, admittedly, pretty hilarious. But what the teenager, Devraj “Dave” S. Kori, 17, did next was to take that voicemail message and post it on Facebook, along with the school official’s phone number and address. It eventually made its way to YouTube, and the local television stations, where it was viewed thousands of times. Now it’s on national network and cable news. The Tistadt’s, predictably, have been getting phone calls at all hours of the night and are suffering embarrassment – warranted or not – on a colossal scale.
And now, after grappling with being in the eye of a media hurricane, the young Kori just wishes the whole thing would go away.
The beautiful thing about this story is that it can be really hard to take a side. To say one person is clearly wrong in this little feud is to oversimplify the issues at hand. As the Post’s columnist Marc Fisher puts it, there are no good guys in this case:
“There is only a confrontation with the gulfs that separate digital kids from analog parents and new concepts of community from old notions of responsibility.
“No one in a story like this sees himself as having done wrong. When Kori called administrator Dean Tistadt’s home number to voice his opinion that school ought to be closed, he thought he was standing up for himself and his fellow students, just as adults often encourage kids to do. The idea that he crossed a line by calling an adult’s home is an alien concept to people who chronicle their every social encounter on Facebook or MySpace. “We are the cellphone generation,” Kori said. “We are used to being reached at all times.”
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