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Monday, June 13, 2011

Weiner Ad Nauseam

Rep. Anthony Weiner! What about his X-rated texting and X-rated chatting? What is the representative thinking? Why would the New York lawmaker act in such an irresponsible manner? Should he resign? Let me see...

First of All, What Did Weiner Do?

Weiner admitted that he'd spent the past three years sending and receiving dirty online chat messages from six women. Some of those sessions included the exchange of X-rated photos -- including one featuring Weiner's penis -- and lewd messages.

Weiner acknowledged he had exchanged online messages with a 17-year-old girl in the state of Delaware. He said nothing improper had passed between the two of them. Nor was there even an allegation that Weiner had a physical relationship with any of the women with whom he maintained virtual relationships. That made his case a departure from the norm, a sex scandal without sex. ("Weiner Seeks Treatment, Leave of Absence From the House," Today News, Associated Press, June 11 2011)
According to Weiner, some of the X-rated online chat sessions took place after his marriage last July to Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Since Weiner's admission, five women have emerged, detailing how they friended the congressman on Facebook and carried on dirty chat sessions with him. (Kevin Fasick and Clemente List, "Weiner Says He Has No Plans to Resign Following Sexting Scandal," New York Post, June 9 2011)

Just recently more photos surfaced that show Weiner standing in front of a mirror, his BlackBerry pointed forward snapping shots of bare chest, often with just a towel draped over his genitals. There are also shots of him in the middle of the exercise room, with empty elliptical trainers behind him. (Jake Sherman and Jonathan Allen, "More Anthony Weiner Photos Surface Online,", June 12, 2011)

Weiner Lies

For more than a week (May, 2011), Weiner lied about his online habits, claiming that a picture of him in his boxer-briefs posted online under his account was the work of a hacker or prankster.

Weiner even joked about the account being hacking on Twitter, asking whether his kitchen blender would be next to "attack" him.

Ultimately, he owned up to having posted the picture of himself. He said this was an inadvertent airing of an image that was meant to be sent directly to another Twitter user.

Weiner Is Sorry

Weiner said, "I betrayed a lot of people and I know it and I'm trying to get back to work now and try to make amends to my constituents, and of course to my family of course," he added. "I'm going to go back to my community office and try to get some work done."

"As I said when I spoke at the press conference on Monday (June 6) that I exchanged inappropriate things with people and, I think that I've now got to deal with those consequences," he added.

"I was completely honest on Monday after I hadn't been for a while," Weiner said outside his lawyer's office in Midtown.

Weiner has decided to take a leave of absence and seek professional treatment while he charts his next move.

"Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person," Weiner spokeswoman Risa Heller said in a statement. "In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well. ("Weiner Seeks Leave of Absence For Treatment Amid More Resignation Calls," Fox News, June 11 2011)

What About Social Accountability?

Social accountability comes with social media. Indeed, employers will look at your Facebook and Twitter pages before and after hiring you; if you don’t want someone to know everything you’ve done, don’t put it out there. 

* If you're engaging in any questionable activity, don't put it out there.

* If a photo reveals less-than-complimentary behavior, don't put it out there.

* If your message (though fashioned as a funny, even witty remark) may be construed to be injurious, don't put it out there.

So Why Do People Like Weiner Do It?

People love "awe-inspiring" (often emotional) content that involves the opening and broadening of the mind, which then motivates transmission of that information. Generally, if a person comes across something that changes the way they understand something, that person will naturally want to discuss what it means with others. (Elise's Review,

People attempt to draw attention with shocking, awe-inspiring posts. Even if these posts are intended to be private and are privately posted to friends, they are often shared with third parties and, eventually, with scores of others.

Researchers Jonah Berger and Katy Milkman at Penn's Wharton School discovered from their study of 3,000 articles from The New York Times that the more emotional stories were shared the most. They found that the emotion of “awe” was one of the strongest drivers of sharing.

They defined awe as “an emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.” In essence …the feeling that the world is a broad place and I am so small.

There are two criteria for an awe inspiring story
  1. Its scale is large
  2. It requires mental accommodation by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.
If people cannot write something awe inspiring to share, then the researchers found that five other emotional factors that promoted sharing were
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Surprise
People share their emotions online. They do this to build relationships and to get something in return like more blog comments or more tweets. People also like to show off to friends, to show others how well-informed they are about what they consider to be relevant information.

And, naturally, some are just into self-promotion and impressing their friends -- "I have a blog or an account, and I want to be 'seen.' I'm going to share my information via social media whether it's awe-inspiring or not."

What Weiner Worries Mean To Me

I do not respect the antics of Anthony Weiner. He dallied online, and, when first caught, he chose to lie about it.

How serious are his transgressions? I honestly don't know. Politicians and public reaction will eventually determine the price he must pay for his mistakes.

Arguments will continue over social accountability. But, let's be concrete about the current state of affairs. Online correspondence (texting, chatting, posting) can reveal very unsavory character traits and open anyone up to public scrutiny. For many reasons people continue to share private, emotional, awe-inspiring information. For just as many reasons others will continue to uncover this information and share it with strangers. 

"When it comes to privacy and accountability, 
people always demand the former for themselves 
and the latter for everyone else." ~David Brin

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