Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Social Network Nitwits

Well it's official. In spite of all the disingenuous and deceitful protestations of innocence, careful skirting of the truth, and half-denials, Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner of New York has admitted not only to sending the underwear picture that has become such a sensation on Twitter; but apparently a number of other questionable photographs and 'tweets' as well. In a typical political mea culpa, the Congressman threw himself on the mercy of voters. That he did this after only days ago looking into cameras and attempting to spar with the media (when not actually lying) is not cause for our pity but our scorn however. 

And so with this admission, we see yet another politician begin his final fall from a combination of moral ambiguity and an inability to separate their public (and electronic) lives from their private ones. Weiner has not only lost his chance to become the next Mayor of New York (if Bloomberg ever agrees to leave), but will be damn lucky to hold onto his Congressional seat. The House ethics committee will next take up the faux pas and foibles of Rep Weiner, and they are more than welcome to them. 

Perhaps those with similarly duplicitous natures and questionable moral judgment will better understand him; for he is not alone in his questionable behavior. Far too many of them (and us) are guilty of exposing our ... feelings out there on Twitter and Facebook in the hopes of garnering attention, receiving accolades, and sometimes engendering sympathy. And while we usually get what we ask for, it's far too seldom what we want or really need. 

Absolutely! Put your words, feelings, and personal life out there like a guest on "The Jerry Springer Show" and there's little doubt that those who follow you on Twitter and Facebook will notice. Quite frankly, it's a train wreck that's hard to turn your eyes from. 

Yep! Those can come as well. (I've been especially guilty on this one.) Playing with words and manipulating the English language in the hopes of appear clever or creating a minor piece of verbal art is fun. Sometimes it even works. More often however, it's simply a different form of train wreck, as sarcasm and irony are left behind in the keyboard. Attempt this at your own risk, as the repercussions can be more far-reaching than you realize. Then there are those who stoop to re-posting the efforts of more inventive minds. They do little more than trace over the lines of the Mona Lisa and expect to be credited as an artist. It's as intellectually laudable as any other form of plagiarism and as creative as line dancing. 

Not so much ... Oh don't get me wrong, there are those day-to-day tragedies whose frustration gathers some 'awwws' when aired in public. There are even some actual misfortunes that become easier to bear when shared; and where solace can be received with help and advice to be received from friends, electronic or otherwise. Most of us will even share some bitter laughter along with our compassion when life from time to time seems to paint a target on someone we know or care about. 

Excessive hand-wringing and drama however, will eventually wear thin the understanding of a saint (not that I know any personally) and are to be avoided at any cost. Those conducting their private lives on the Internet in the hopes some level of fame (like Rep Weiner) run a number of terrible risks in the attempt, which include (but are not limited to)

* A law of averages which has determined that eventually you will make a mistake between the private and public lives you live and humiliate yourself (bad enough) or perhaps others who don't deserve it (much worse). * Airing a private grievance in a public venue, while self-satisfying, is unlikely to produce the result intended; and far more likely to produce its opposite. * When we share information with friends, we often forget that it's not only shared with friends of friends automatically; but that it's going to be out there in cyberspace forever, just waiting for the opportunity to jump up and bite us in the butt long after we've forgotten about it. * Even the most sympathetic of souls runs out such sentiment at some point, and those attempting to continue to draw from this well are far more likely to gather scorn than the sympathy they crave. * There is such a thing as 'too much information' about any of us. The reason that people have both public and private lives is because they are different things. They need to remain so. 

 All of that being said, I want to thank Rep Weiner and all of the rest of you out there committing social suicide while attempting this twisted form of social networking. The fear that you produce through your spectacular failures is an inspiration to many of us (You know, like the movie "Jackass"); and a cautionary tale to be learned from. And as the human race has managed to mature in its use of so many technologies, let's hope we can find a happy balance with this one. Let's continue to find ways to stay close to friends and family without airing all of our dirty laundry in public. Let all say of us that we know how to socially network well, and have not, like Rep Weiner, become a Social Network Nitwit.


Roland Hansen said...

Rep Weiner, a Social Network Nitwit? It seems he has joined a not-so-elite club. There are legions upon legions of social network nitwits out there. I guess we want something a whole lot better than the average-type American in Congress.

p.s. No defense of the dirtbag weenie, just my commentary on what I see in the vast majority of Americans. What? Me? A pessimist? Hmmm... and to think I used to be one of those silly optimists. Ah, the passage of time does the soul good. Now, excuse me while I mount my trust steed, gather my musket and lantern and bell, and go warn the British. Ding-a-ling!

Roland Hansen said...

Oh, oh, I left the letter "y" of the word trusty up there. I wonder Y.

Timothy W Higgins said...

No argument Roland, this is a truly bi-partisan effort on the part of Congress. But hey, let's not limit ourselves to those hiding in the Capital.

I'm sure we could find plenty at the state and local level across the country with equal skills, abilities, and pathetic egos that attempt to feed them at the trough of social networking.