Unlimited “Sext” Messaging, Anyone?

Young people sure have a way of making trouble.

There has been a recent trend among teens and tweens (“tweens” being defined as kids roughly between the ages of 9 and 12) of “sexting,” a practice of sending sexually explicit or pornographic images of themselves or others to their friends. Get it? It’s a play on the words “sex” and texting.” We are so clever.

But the consequences of such actions are not so funny. CNN reported a story recently about a young man named Phillip Alpert, who shortly after turning 18 (which makes him a legal adult) sent a naked photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend to friends and family after the two had a major fight.

The original photo was sent to Alpert by his girlfriend prior to the incident, but it wasn’t until this fight that the photo got out to half the world. And if you know anything about anything, word spreads like wildfire. The police in Orlando, Florida somehow found out and Alpert was arrested under charges of sending child pornography. He pleaded no contest to this felony and was sentenced to five years probation.

Worse yet, Alpert had to register as a sex offender because of the underage pornography aspect to his crime. He, for the rest of his life, will be categorized in the same sentence as rapists, child stalkers, pedophiles, and predators. The crime he committed took a grand total of two or three minutes to commit. For that, he will pay for the rest of his life.

But is it fair for him to be placed in the same category as the scum of society? Though technically he was an adult and she was a minor, the circumstances suggest they were practically peers. But this particular case bears little interest to either you or I. What really is interesting is that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Teens and tweens and old folks like me are doing this all across the country. Sending nude photos of yourself to your girlfriend or boyfriend seems to be a new way of flirting in today’s dating scene. Whatever happened to the good old days of going up to someone and striking up a conversation? Whatever happened to relying on your wit and conversational skills to attract someone of the opposite sex? When did “sexting” replace decent human interaction?

I guess this is all part of the technological advances in today’s world. The wider ability to communicate make us more likely to do and say things that we would never do in real life. We would never take off our clothes in front of someone to impress them, but we would be willing to take a picture of ourselves with our cell phone camera and text it. What’s the difference?

This brings up the disturbing question about whether technology is making us more immoral, or worse yet, amoral. Sending and creating child pornography is something that was infinitely more difficult to do prior to the Internet. Today, it is much easier to access these materials. As “Avenue Q,” famously put it, the Internet is for porn.

If technology is really making us amoral and desensitized to committing foul acts of indecency, what is the solution? I have no idea. Moderation, perhaps? I’m no Buddhist, but maybe there is some wisdom in the notion of forsaking worldly attachments in order to save one’s self.

We cannot change the culture of “sexting” without recognizing the root cause: the realization that we do because we can. If the technology is out there to send naked photos of yourself to your significant other, who is to say you can’t do that?

I’ve never sent photos of myself over the phone, and have never received any likewise. But if I do, who is to say I won’t forward it to my friends and family, even if it’s as harmless as a photo of a new puppy or a pet cat? Nudity is the next step, but that step is not too far off. People will commit acts of indecency not because they don’t know any better, but because it’s so easy. It’s just one click of a button away.

Just make sure the authorities never find out about it.

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