Project Pay Attention is an initiative that asks people to pay closer attention to their actions and the words they use, either verbally, in writing, or via social media. When you sign on for Project Pay Attention, you pledge to speak up for others, choose your words wisely, track your online behavior, inquire, challenge yourself, and spread the word. By educating people, Project Pay Attention proposes to change the way our society thinks about language and to ultimately reduce the negative effects of ignorance and intolerance.
In Fall 2010, when so many young people took their own lives, the media reported that bullying and social combat based on perceived sexual orientation and gender non-conformity had caused these individuals to kill themselves. Regardless of how the young people actually identified, they were often verbally and physically attacked at school and relentlessly tormented via social media on the internet.
The suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who was spied on with a webcam by his roommate, Dharun Ravi, became a rallying cry for a number of movements, including Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” video project. Thousands of people have uploaded videos to testify that it does in fact get better, that the bullying stops, and the pain of youth can be overcome.
In February 2012, New Yorker writer Ian Parker wrote an article about the then pending Ravi trial, and it included Facebook posts, text messages, and tweets of Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi. These online communications provided a glimpse into how these two young men and their friends “talked” about one another via social media. The actual words used in those communications illustrated that today’s young people, and probably many adults as well, are woefully unprepared to navigate the multicultural and globalized society in which we live.
Project Pay Attentionresponds to that lack of preparation. By fostering an understanding that our language choices and our actions have power, Project Pay Attention asks people of all ages and backgrounds to think carefully about what we do, what we say, and how we say it. It recognizes that educating people about the power of language is an active way of shifting our daily lexicon so that disrespectful and hurtful language choices can be avoided. And it embraces the notion that people can shift their behavior and ultimately create a more respectful society for the future.
Bottomline: Young people learn behavior from adults. If adults can become more aware about their language choices and actions, the next generation of children may live happier and healthier.
Please take the pledge to Pay Attention at projectpayattn.com, and then spread the word! Change happens slowly, one person at a time. Please do your part!