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Don’t be a trafficker

Do you remember that film “Good Will Hunting”? Where Matt Damon’s character calls out this guy in a Harvard bar for regurgitating some advanced textbook just to impress a girl? At one point, he’s sitting on a park bench with Robin Williams and Robin says, “you’re just a kid, you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.” Matt’s supposed to be playing a young genius that has gone unrecognized by the world. As a student on Princeton’s campus — as a part of the Ivy League community — I’m pretty sure I’ve met a couple of geniuses and probably a lot more who could almost qualify. We all talk about this top-class education, where the students are reading all the time. We’re busy taking advantage of all the information that’s out there. After hearing Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk, I've begun to wonder if that’s actually a good thing. Should we be striving to know everything, to pass judgement on everything?

On March 19, Monica Lewinsky, the then-22-year old intern that Bill Clinton referred to when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” talked about the culture of online public shaming. She drew upon her personal experiences from when she worked at the White House in 1998. For a while, she was the woman we shoved into a corner of scandal and scorn. We made her an object of political caricaturization, a mere cultural reference in bad rap songs and perhaps worst of all, the first young victim of large-scale public humiliation. I was scrolling through the past decade and a half’s worth of Monica Lewinsky references online and each was more distasteful than the last. I wondered, when they were first made, how many of these “jokes” were thought to be witty? Did the jokesters think themselves clever in their ability to show how much they knew about politics and current events and even more so when they could manipulate this knowledge all for a poorly earned chuckle? In so many cases, I’ve found that highly educated people — most often, professed patrons of news magazines and websites — frequently make these jokes and call it well-informed satire. Princeton students are certainly no exception.


Who can blame us? From the first day, we’re thrown into a setting of serious academic discussion that leaves little room for settling down and adjusting. The more we’re expected to talk, the less time we have to think about what we’re saying or what our peers are saying. We forget to question why information that is out there is out there, how it got there and whether it should be out there. It seems with the overwhelming availability of information, we become obsessed with getting all of it and then showing it off. We never stop to differentiate between being a societally conscious, intellectual individual and a trafficker of online harassment.

The greatest lesson that our professors can teach us is not to analyze information, but to know when to reject it. This might sound absurd — after all, why not take advantage of information that’s been made publicly available? Then again, in that same vein of thought, we’d have to ask, why not open a website link for a leaked celebrity sex tape? Why not open the forwarded email from an eating club that exposes an intimate act between two students? Why not invade someone’s privacy or violate his or her space just because you can?

In early March, Wesleyan University’s campus newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus, released a news article, reporting the arrest of four students allegedly involved in the distribution of the drug Molly/MDMA. This article was followed up with a response by the Argus’ Editors-in-Chief, Gabe Rosenberg and Sofi Goode, who stated that the publication would not release the names of the Molly overdose suspects after consulting with their executive editors (EICs of previous semesters) as they “took into consideration that the investigation was still ongoing and no student had been convicted.” In February and September of 2014, the Prince similarly dealt with issues of disclosing students’ names after their arrests for the possession of marijuana, eventually deciding that it was the newspaper’s responsibility to publish them. Whether or not either of these decisions was morally correct, both involved a thorough consideration of the implications in releasing this information to the public. As students, we don’t have the convenience to consult with an entire editorial or public relations team to filter what we say, view or post online. Nonetheless, we should still attempt to consider all the implications of certain pieces of informations.

By knowing when to reject information and when to contribute, we practice restraint and demonstrate the full potential of our education. And in the end, sometimes when an opportunity is presented to us, it’s best not to take advantage of it.

Isabella Gomes is an ecology and evolutionary biology major from Irvine, Calif. She can be reached at