, Newburyport, MA


February 10, 2014

Taming social media's nastier side


When the Daily News story was published the following day, it immediately drew reaction. Portnoy lashed out, personally attacking the reporter, defending his website and stating that he had apologized to the Mitchells. He also reposted the photo. Many of his supporters ran to his defense.

But many more understood what was really going on. Portnoy was roundly criticized for allowing the attack on Sean to occur in the first place. Sue Mitchell rallied supporters to her side and got people talking about the issue of social media’s penchant for callousness. And at Triton, Sean drew heartfelt support from faculty and students who gathered around him.

The show of support led Sean’s father to comment, “Sean is connected, protected and respected.”

In the end, the Mitchells felt that Portnoy’s apology was sincere. They were more disturbed by the mean comments, and now they are hoping to turn the focus on social media.

For the most part these days, we seem to be satisfied when people apologize for their mistakes. But the real test of character is what is learned, and steps taken to prevent it from happening again. Portnoy utterly fails that test.

Comments are something that Portnoy has the purview to control, but he doesn’t.

Portnoy told The Daily News, “I hate our comment section ... They are the lowest of the low. But that’s an Internet thing. Go look on YouTube, go look on, go look on ESPN. Look anywhere, they are out of control. It’s like fighting the tides coming in.”

That’s bunk. The tide can be fought.

We get it. There’s big money to be made in producing online content that caters to a sophomoric kind of humor; indeed, Portnoy is reported to be a multimillionaire. Allowing sophomoric comments to be posted goes hand-in-hand with the whole schtick.

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