USA Today said it best in its Tuesday story this week on embattled New York Rep. Anthony Weiner who was caught in a web – literally and figuratively – of his own making.
“Weiner’s news conference in a New York hotel reflected a dramatic collision between the anonymity of social media and the relentless scrutiny of public officials by partisans also enabled by the Internet,” Susan Page wrote.
For anyone who hasn’t tuned in to this latest political scandal, a very married Rep. Weiner acknowledged last Monday he has been involved in sexually-laced exchanges on the web with several women over the past three years. In the course of these exchanges, Weiner posted bare-torso photos of himself which have, by this time, been circulated publicly around the world by the news media.
It’s basic sexting
It’s a practice that has become well known over the past couple years – although more often by teens and pre-teens – called sexting.
What made this admission more grating was it came on the heels of his lying about it several times and even asserting he was being victimized by someone else who posted photos of his torso. He recanted that on Monday and admitted to lying.
Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter open up new ways for people like Weiner to get into trouble, often under the mistaken notion that their Internet communications with other individuals will be cloaked in privacy.
Exposing dark sides
But that’s not the way the Internet works, is it? The same web that allows us to have one-on-one exchanges with other persons is also the web that is often used to expose one’s dark-side dalliances.
The culture of the Internet is, after all, one of openness. You may be able to find whatever you want (good and bad) on the web, but can’t expect that search to remain private, especially if others have a vested interest in finding out what you’re up to.
Inviting, but dangerous
“Social media networks have opened up new possibilities for missteps,” Page writes in USA Today. “And for quick and dramatic exposure of such scandals.”
One of the women on the receiving end of Weiner’s messages and photos was Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother from Texas. Willing to puncture the congressman’s misplaced belief in privacy, Broussard released to ABC News several Facebook posts and photos, together with other messages, she had received from Weiner.
Together, these communications appeared to detail a flirting congressman willing to engage in a sexually explicit web relationship with Broussard. Among his Facebook messages to her, she said, was the following: “What are you wearing? What do you like? You know, in the bedroom.”
Some poll findings
The issue of sexting has been around long enough to have drawn quite a few opinions about it, and whether it constitutes being unfaithful. A 2004 ABC News survey and a 2010 survey from Pew Internet and American Life Project show the following:
* 64 percent of adults believe people who have sex talk in Internet chat rooms are being unfaithful to their spouses or significant others.
* 15 percent of adults say they have received sexually suggestive photo or video messages on their cellphone.
* 6 percent of adults admit to having sent such messages.
* 31 percent of 18-29-year-olds say they have seen an explicit photo or video message.
* 13 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds have admitted to sending an explicit text message.
The ABCs of behavior
Joseph Mercurio, a New York political consultant for Democratic candidates, told reporters, “I always give candidates a briefing on what to do and not to do with social media. But I never thought I’d have to tell a congressman to not be sexting.”