The New Media Institute (NMI) is a research and fact finding organization whose mission is to improve public understanding of issues surrounding the Internet and other forms new media communications. NMI works directly with the news media, researchers, academics, government and industry professionals and serves as a primary resource of facts, statistics and analysis.

Thou Shalt Always Remember the Twitter/Weinergate Cautionary Tale

Needless to say, Anthony Weiner’s sophomoric escapades using Twitter as his way to commit political suicide is sad, to say the least. There are many morals to this story, but as our focus is on new media, let’s focus on that element of this cautionary tale.

The now former Congressman Weiner isn’t the first politician to get himself into trouble with the aid of new media tools, and his maladroit handling of the public outcry has lead to the disintegration of yet another politician. These incidents show the bad and the immediacy along with the good of new media communications and they should remind us all (politicians included) that new media technologies can both increase communication as well as the human tendency toward self-destruction. Perhaps we could all benefit from spelling-out an easily avoidable issue one more time for everyone who uses new media communications (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and on and on) for whatever reason:

• New media Communications are immediate. As soon as you click "send," your message, thoughts, and pictures are out there.

• Never, never, ever send out anything you wouldn’t want the rest of the world to know.

These two commandments of new media communications are simple and direct. Why are they broken so often, and so frequently by people who should know better? Is it a lack of common sense? Or, is it the on the off chance thrill that one is important enough to get into such a serious pickle? Obviously, it is different for different people. Our opinion is that such “errors” are from self-absorption and arrogance: the rules do not apply to them. Ha!

Beware out there. New media communications have changed everything, and for the most part they have done so for the better. But, remember, when online, you’re never really alone, and what you might think is innocent could turn viral.

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