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June 21, 2012

The Internet’s Role in the Bus Monitor Story

Based on the nature of today’s 0-60 news cycle, I’m assuming that most people reading this post have already seen the headline – Bus Monitor Bullied by Middle Schoolers – and the correlating YouTube video which features 10+ minutes of truly ugly, vile behavior as a group of young teenagers verbally taunt and bully 68 year-old bus monitor Karen Klein. If you haven’t already seen it, you can find the video here, but be forewarned… it’s incredibly hard to watch.

The controversy/buzz surrounding the video has been meteoric. But so has the outpouring of support. And in conjunction, Karen is quickly becoming a household name – appearing on the Today show this morning and being featured as a lead story across many news outlets including the headline story on at the time of this posting. What promises to follow is another (and most definitely a necessary) look at the growing trend of bullying and a slew of perspectives and questions around how to counter the rise of this type of behavior among teens.

But what may or may not occur is a broader look at what role the internet played in this story. The internet you ask? Yes. Although the incident occurred on the most non-digital place in the world, a school bus, I believe it was heavily influenced by internet culture and the post-event hysteria has been driven primarily via the web. Here’s how:

  1. The trajectory of the story – from online video upload to national news – occurred because of the shift in how we access news. Rarely do we see major headlines that are the driven by long-term investigative reporting. Instead, we seek immediate, reactive coverage of headlines that are made prominent based solely on the viral nature of the story being passed along. Karen Klein was made a celebrity (for lack of a better term) by the internet. And major news outlets in turn are now telling her story.
  2. As cruel as the internet can be, it is also uniquely inspiring. Having been exposed to the YouTube video via Reddit, a gentlemen in Canada decided to setup a group funding site to try to raise $5,000 to send Karen on vacation. He was bothered by the video and wanted to do something nice for her. A pretty simple proposition, but one that likely could not have occurred without web-based donation platforms and simple e-commerce functionality. 24 hours later, more than $300,000 has been pledged to Karen by over 14,000 people. Her vacation is likely to take the form of retirement.

The Internet is a wonderfully complex thing. As a digital marketer, it’s my life blood. And personally, it’s how I consume most content, maintain many relationships and find daily entertainment. Yesterday, I had two drastically contradictory moments with the internet – one extremely depressing interaction when I watched all 10 minutes of the school bus video, and one – which I’ll hold on to for much longer – where my faith in humanity was restored when I stumbled upon the inidiegogo fundraising page created for Karen.

Have you had any moments with the Internet lately? Was it positive or negative? Leave a comment below and share.

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  • Jon Bishop

    This is why I love the internet and specifically Reddit as a community. There will always be trolls diluting the conversation, but filter them out and you find some really amazing people.

    Here’s the inspiration behind my inspiration “random acts of kindness”:

  • Matt

    Totally agree with your sentiment, Jon. It’s sad that “troll-like” behavior is cropping up at a younger and younger age, but it is really inspiring to see the good that exists on the web… and specifically in Reddit’s community.

    Is it odd that I’m now craving pizza?

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