Thursday, August 31, 2006

Running for office in the age of MySpace

I have a confession to make. I used to be a chronic bird flipper. I freely admit it. A few drinks in me at a concert or a book reading and up that finger would go. It's a juvenile habit, to be sure, but I think it's one a number of us have indulged in, especially in our early 20s.

The difference between a 40-year-old who enjoyed flipping the bird in his youth to a 20-year-old does, is that 20-year-olds now have digital cameras and phone cams to capture a rowdy night out. And, inevitably, they share those pictures on networking sites like MySpace, Friendster and Facebook.

When I was a reporter, some of my own bird-flipping shots were readily available to the amateur sleuth on some of those networking sites, as were some choice words on a blog I had intended to be read only by my high school and college friends. I've since deleted photos and entries and upped my privacy levels on those sites, but I wouldn't be surprised (given the number of people I've PO'ed) if a stray photo here or there has made on to a hard drive I didn't expect it to.

Now that 20-somethings are becoming mid-to-late 20-somethings and deciding to run for office, those stray internet picks that they may have forgotten about can come back to haunt them.

Some of you may have caught Will Seward's 'Gotcha' on a potential young Democratic Freeholder candidate (it's now removed). I met this person briefly at some event when I was a reporter and he's actually an incredibly well-meaning and very nice guy.

But there are a lot of nice 20-something guys and gals who may be hampered in their bid for public office because of pics they posted on networking sites becoming public.

I'm kind of curious about what happens when 20-somethings become 30-somethings and 40-somethings and start running for higher office. (In the Internet age, by the way, access to now-defunct sites is only a click away.)

One day we will have a guy or gal running for president and that guy or gal will have had a MySpace account in their youth. And on that MySpace account would have likely been college drinking shots, bird-flipping pics or any number of gleeful acts of debauchery caught on camera.

I'm just very curious as to what's going to happen in campaigning as people my age get older and their past is a click away from coming back to haunt them.


At 9:18 AM, Blogger William H Seward said...

Great points Jackie.

My post was more than a "Gotcha" and the young man's photo didn't come from Myspace or any site like it. It came from his band's very current website. Incredibly, the photo, and more embarrassing ones are still up.

The young man is just not ready to serve in elected office, yet some powerful Trenton pols were pushing him on. Those pols did him more of I disservice than I did.

My post was taken down because it would be malicious to leave it up.

Hopefully, by the time he enters a race for elected office again, he will have lived the kind of life that would make publishing those photos more embarrassing than the photos themselves.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger the inside airbather said...

I'ma bird flipper too.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Honest Abe said...

I believe the President was caught flipping a bird while he was Governor of Texas. Some made a fuss over it, then it blew over.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger The Big Professor said...

G. W. Bush «flipping a bird» as you call it is typical behaviour from the most juvenile «president» America has had. When he was selected, I observed that it would soon come to pass that America would long for the days when an adult occupied the White House.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Honest Abe said...

Wow. Lately I've just been rejecting that guy. His comments have usually been limited to predicting a Democratic victory in Monmouth County. Oh, well, he's entitled to his opinion.


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