A Life Reduced to a Tweet

It used to be that the ultimate limited character assessment of a life was defined by what you wanted engraved on your tombstone. Devoted Wife, Loving Mother, Dear Friend. With the recent tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi, a life, or the end of one, comes in the limited character form of a Facebook mobile status update. Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.

On September 22nd, Tyler, a new college freshman and accomplished violinist, committed suicide over a tweet and posted his last words on Facebook. Three days beforehand his roommate posted this to Twitter - "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." After which said roommate purportedly streamed the private webcam video to the internet for others to watch.

Twitter and Facebook have become such a ubiquitous presence and such powerful disseminators of information that they're now, well, lethal. Hazing, teasing and bullying have long been an unfortunate part of growing up. This is not that. This is using technology to break the law. Surreptitiously recording someone "making out" and then telling the world to tune in is a crime regardless of the outcome.

Who knows if this is the only reason Tyler decided to end his life. It certainly contributed. And now two families will have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.

How sad that a life can be categorized and decimated in 140 characters and a matter of microseconds. Will there be a backlash, a widespread denouncement? Unlikely. Tyler is now being memorialized by friends, family and thousands of strangers -- not with candlelight vigils, but posts to Twitter and Facebook.