Those internets are dangerous

10 May

Well, that was a ton of fun, let me tell you.

I’m back for the time being and enjoying a little 1 week spurt of vacation before I start my summer work. This summer I will be working in a district attorney’s office as a summer clerk. It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully you guys will be able to hear about some of the more interesting work I’m doing.

Unfortunately, I realized a month or so ago that the internet was a dangerous place. I even thought about shutting down tCP, for the safety of the authors’ imagined future careers as professional awesome-types. But joe, what’s so dangerous about it?

Recently my esteemed university has come under attack by internet bloggers and lawyer-metacritics alike, essentially dragging it though the mud through popular law blog sites such as above the law and others.

Aside: since I said law blog I am obligated to post the following video of which many of our site’s readers will appreciate. If you are a reader of the site and do not appreciate it, stop reading this site. It is not for you.

Back to the point. Well, my point anyway; a point which many of you already know. It bears repeating. Facebook is dangerous. The internet is dangerous. Blogs are dangerous. Especially when it comes to schools and institutions, where reputation is everything. As you may have read though the above link, one the professors at our school decided to respond to a comment made by one of the 3L students about the recent US News and World Report ranking of law schools. This professor sought to defend the school’s actions over the past few years, despite the drop in Mercer’s rank out of the top tier of law schools. This spawned a flurry of activity and pushback which resulted in national blogal coverage, and further resulted in the defaming of my school.

Some things I want to say:

First, the US News and World Report is overwhelmingly recognized as the worst possible proxy of law school effectiveness or educational standards. A large percentage of the rankings are based on mailers that are sent out to judges and lawyers in the community, which in turn rank the schools on their reputation. And how do the judges/lawyers figure out what kind of reputation Campbell law or Charleston law or Appalachian law or Mercer law have? They look at the US News and World Report. It is purely self-perpetuating. Most judges and lawyers do not pay much attention to law school, outside of the top 50 schools, because frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Law schools do a prerequisite job. Everything else falls on the particular student.

Yet, every stupid kid who even considers applying to law school turns to these mostly arbitrary/political/bureaucratic rankings to decide where to go. I’m not saying that these rankings are useless, I’m just saying that people should understand that they have very little meaning or merit, and that it is insane to use them as the sole criteria for choosing a school to attend.

On to my second point. Facebook. It is evil. The reality of Facebook, seen more and more every day, is that it is a very dangerous place. This danger derives from the disconnect people feel when they open up their web browser. For whatever reason, people do not experience normal inhibitions when on Facebook. They speak their mind, they say inconsiderate/rude things, and they feel free to attribute themselves to saying those things. It is a rare and odd phenomenon which flows from a misunderstanding of Facebook as a casual atmosphere.

It used to be that Facebook was a relaxed, casual atmosphere where people could go and meet other people. You could also see pictures of friends and keep up with old acquaintances. But it is not that anymore. Facebook is no longer a casual, private place, and this sense of informality is clearly misplaced. The whole debacle here illustrates that reality perfectly.

This leads me to my point. While the inconsiderate comments of the student were certainly unnecessary, rude, inconsiderate, damaging, and misconceived, it is important to consider the role of the professor in this event. I have the utmost respect and affection for that professor; I had the fortune of having him in my first year and many agree that he is one of the best and most interested/interesting professors around. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong forum for the conversation. He should have realized that he was acting in an official capacity as a school representative when on Facebook, not as a casual observer of the fallacies in the status of a Facebook “friend”. He stepped into the dangerous domain of Facebook, a place where rational arguments come second to the reign of public opinion. And in the Facebook world, ad hominem attack is a powerful tool which is not off limits.

So what does that mean for me, intern derrick, and tCP?

It means we have to be more careful in this dangerous world we call the internet. Try not to slur people. Try to only make fun of ourselves. Try to limit the personal references and make sure that if an employer were to read this, that we would not get fired or unconsidered for a job.

Unconsidered is a word. You know how I know? Because spell check didn’t pick it up. If that doesn’t keep me from getting a job, I don’t know what will.

So remember, blogs and networking sites are dangerous places. Except for this one. This one is awesome.

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