By now Anthony Weiner has become a poster child for the perils of social media and a case study for the influence of Twitter. But I don’t believe Weinergate is about social media or digital illiteracy. Weinergate is simply another cautionary tale about public figures acting recklessly and badly.
From his mea culpa press conference, we learned that his public Tweet revealing himself in his bulging underwear (aimed at student Gennette Cordova) was just one of a series of online indiscretions (if that’s even the right word) with six women.
Or, as he put it: “I have exchanged photos and messages of an explicit nature with at least six women over the last few years.”
One of those women, Megan Broussard, shared with ABC News emails, Facebook messages, and other evidence of an online relationship that had been occurring since April.
“I didn’t think it was him,” she told ABC. “I thought for sure, ‘why would someone in that position be doing this?'”
Why indeed would someone in his position be doing something like this?
As we’ve seen with powerful men in office ranging from President Clinton to Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s simply another enormous risk taker who got caught. He just chose digital as the medium (and in doing so sparked a discussion about what constitutes adultery).
I doubt Anthony Weiner cared about any Federal social media policies that might have prohibited him from posting inappropriate content online. And being sensitive that Twitter is a micro-blog would not necessarily have stopped him.
Even being fully cognizant that Twitter is a public micro-blog would not necessarily have stopped him. That’s what’s so baffling about risk takers.
In fact, knowing he was jeopardizing his marriage, personal reputation, and political career might have made the risk taking all the more fun given his risk taking mentality. A few years ago, when another notorious public figure, Elliot Spitzer, was caught up in a prostitution scandal, Mary Charmichael of Newsweek asked several analysts to examine why powerful men take enormous risks for sex. Check out his passage from the article:
Risk Rules! Sensation seekers don’t just lust after things–they take them, often disregarding the risks that block their way. “When you’re dealing with these high-level, in-your-face, go-for-everything guys, you’re dealing with people who take a lot of risks. If that results in gains for them, they get on a roll, and pretty soon their risk management starts to fade a little,” says Gladue, who is based at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. “At some point, they can’t manage every aspect of their lives. They have to blow off some steam, so they say to themselves, ‘this is something I’m going to do for thrills or chills or fun. It’s kind of dangerous, and I’m not going to worry about it.’ For politicians, that’s often in their private life, where they don’t have people managing them all the time. And that’s where things get out of hand.”
For these types, the risk itself is part of the reward. “Breaking rules is a thrill for them,” says Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University. “Look at Spitzer: he’s Mr. Rectitude, the terror of Wall Street, and he busts prostitution rings, and yet he allegedly goes into that very lions’ den—the prostitution ring—and partakes. If that isn’t risk-taking I don’t know what other label to put on it.”
Anthony Weiner: digital ignoramus and victim of the new rules of social? I don’t think so. What do you think?