Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Big Oops

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Here we go again. Yet another high profile case of a big Twitter oops. By now you have heard of Congressman Anthony Weiner and the compromising photos he sent of himself to several women via Twitter. Oops. Apparently, Weiner thought he was sending direct messages to these women when he was really sending the photos to his entire feed. Oops again.

When the story first broke, Weiner gave more than nine hours worth of interviews denying the photos were sent by him, at times getting upset with members of the media and accusing his Twitter account of being hacked. One more oops.

Then on Monday of this week, Weiner finally came out and admitted what many already suspected. That he had in fact been the one to send the photos of himself to those women.

Why is it that these seemingly smart and intelligent people make such basic and stupid mistakes? Hello? Rule #1 of the Internet: once you put something out in cyberspace it is impossible to completely remove it. Knowing this, why would you risk your career, reputation and your personal relationships over something so stupid? There is even a national public service campaign directed to teens on the staying power of the Internet. Perhaps we need to direct the same campaign to members of congress.

Maybe Weiner really did think he was sending direct messages to those women and not his Twitter feed. But there is yet another issue. Sending an inappropriate photo of yourself electronically is no different because now someone has that image of you to do with what they want. And with networks like Twitter, Facebook and blogs, once it is out, it will only take a matter of moments to go viral.

This is a great reminder of the fact that social media levels the playing field for everyone. It’s kind of like the DMV. No matter who you are – Oprah, Lady Gaga, or Kristen Paquet – everyone has to wait in the long line and deal with grumpy staff at the DMV to renew our driver’s license. To me, social media is the same deal. We all have the same access, the same tools and the same power. A high profile congressman is no different from me when it comes to communicating on social media. It’s all about how smart you are when using it.

What do you think? Can Weiner’s very public oops serve as a lesson to other high profile people – and even those who aren’t – on thinking before we act? Will it make a difference?
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