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May 2, 2016

The Lessons of Laremy

Whoever hacked football star Laremy Tunsil’s Instagram and Twitter accounts might have a job waiting for them with a Presidential campaign. By posting a video of Tunsil taking a bong hit while wearing a gas mask, the hacker changed the trajectory of Tunsil’s life and the future of at least a few NFL teams. This was a precision attack that only a political operative or sniper-for-hire could love.

The photo sent Tunsil’s value, an offensive tackle rated by some as the best player in the 2016 NFL draft, plummeting. He fell to the 13th pick and lost about $8 million in guaranteed signing bonus in the process.

The drama played out on live TV, and the fallout is being detailed, discussed, and disseminated. I think there are two parts to the story worth considering.

First, I don’t know why Laremy Tunsil’s “team” tried to take the video down. If I was at Tunsil’s side last night, I would have grabbed the microphone from ESPN’s Suzy Kolber as soon as I learned about it. Don’t take the video down – take a screenshot and tell the world this has happened. Call the police, the FBI, and NFL security. If you’ve been hacked, you are a victim – no matter how foolish you might have been in photos you assumed were private. Whoever did this to Tunsil is the criminal and should be pursued by police for cheating someone out of their potential earnings. The shaming of hacking victims is making it harder to catch digital criminals.

Second, Tunsil has been through a process complete with interviews, try-outs, and psychological testing. Perhaps the photo confirmed some suspicions that were already out there. But if a team was ready to take Tunsil, why did they suddenly get cold feet at the sight of a college student taking a bong hit? We don’t really think that Johnny Manziel is the only football player who partied, right? Since you started reading this, there likely have been another 500 photos on Instagram showing college students taking bong hits. One of them could be your future doctor, lawyer, or President.

Is society too easily swayed by one moment captured in time without context and a detailed explanation?

Granted, Tunsil should not have allowed anyone to snap a video of him taking a bong hit. He’s paying for that mistake. No matter what he does on the football field, this story will live forever on his Wikipedia and search pages. The Legend of Laremy has been written and will only grow over time.

However, all the questioning and admonishing of Tunsil for this error is keeping us from considering another lesson perhaps just as great – is society too easily swayed by one moment captured in time without context and a detailed explanation?

Photos of bad decisions and misdeeds are going to keep showing up on Facebook, Twitter Instagram, Snapchat and every other new social media platform we haven’t heard of yet. Sometimes, those photos should make people think twice before trusting someone. But last night instead of making a decision based on one picture from a really bad moment, executives from the Miami Dolphins decided to trust their team security personnel, their own instincts after interviews with Tunsil and people who know Tunsil.

That is refreshing. We’ll have to wait and see if Tunsil, the person and the player, justifies the confidence the Dolphins have shown. Maybe, we’ll also find that Tunsil is not the person we see in that snapshot of one moment in his life.

Perhaps as we see a different Laremy Tunsil, we’ll recognize that social media is not necessarily a place where truths are revealed, but instead is a place where alternative realities can easily be created and take hold in just a few clicks.

If social media isn’t going to change, perhaps it is up to us to be more critical of what we see. And, I can’t think of a better lesson than that.

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