Now we know that Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) did not have his Twitter account hacked, he simply lied. A combination of the Congressman’s name, the object of his “indiscretion” and his pathetic attempt at damage control have all combined to inspire headlines like, “What’s Wrong With My Weiner?” But, there is a serious side to all of this.
Representative Weiner’s position is that his personal life does not affect his professional life and that his oath of public service has not been violated by his actions. Perhaps. But I have a different take on this … I think that Representative Weiner is too digitally illiterate to hold public office. As I have often said, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in the information age. None. And that’s just for average people. If you choose a career in the public spotlight, you have to assume that your life is an open e-book. Everyone has access to everything you say, do, type, txt, shoot, tweet, update, buy, sell, borrow, steal, eat, drink, wear and, they can easily learn where you are and who you are with. If I’ve left something out, my bad … just include it … public life in the Information Age is totally public!
Nancy Pelosi ( House Minority Leader ) and U.S. Representative Steve Israel (D- Huntington ) have called for a Federal investigation. They want to make sure that @RepWeiner’s social media flirtations were not done at taxpayer’s expense. Pundits and proletarians are saying that our elected officials need to be held to a higher standard. I disagree. I think that we are all human and that we all make mistakes. However, I do think that in 2011 if you don’t know that a Tweet and a yfrog.com account are publishing platforms, you are too ignorant of our world to do anyone any good in Congress, or any other body tasked with crafting laws for the betterment of our society.
When he left his fateful voicemail message for his paramour, did Tiger Woods know that he was making a digital audio recording which would be stored on a remote server and distributed like a hit song on an illegal file sharing network? No. He thought he was leaving a voicemail. He had no idea it was a digital audio recording on a remote server. He had no idea that he would completely lose control of the rights to that work. He is digitally illiterate.
Did former Governor Eliot Spitzer know that an electronic transaction over State lines left a trail of electronic breadcrumbs leading directly to him? Obviously not. He is digitally illiterate.
Those were early days. This is 2011. There is absolutely no excuse for Anthony Weiner not to understand the power and pervasiveness of social media tools. It is insulting to all of us, and it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the world as it is rapidly evolving.
It is said that John F. Kennedy was the first “Television” President. His famous televised debate with Richard Nixon (the first in history) was a pivotal moment in modern communication. People who heard the debate on the radio thought that Nixon won, people who saw the debate on TV thought that Kennedy won. With a tan, full make-up and a charismatic television persona, Kennedy ushered in the era of television-savvy politics.
President Obama hired Chris Hughes (a co-founder of Facebook) to help him campaign and ushered in the era of Internet-savvy politics.
The candidates for 2012 will usher in the era of social media-savvy politics. Digital natives know the rules, the leadership must know them too.
In my book, Overcoming the Digital Divide: How to use Social Media and Digital Tools to Reinvent Yourself and Your Career, I outline the elements of digital life and spend time going through how our skillsets have to evolve with the technology. Not to make this too shameless a plug, but this is a book @RepWeiner might have benefited from reading.
There are some people who will push back and say that everyone is entitled to a private life. This may be true. However, we have not evolved our tools (or our societal expectations) to allow for it. This is probably something we should get to. However, in order to get to it, we need digitally literate leaders. Which … quite obviously … we don’t yet have.