It’s in every news cast. The latest on Congressman Anthony Weiner’s personal sext scandal.
Sext. A new word delivered to us via advances in technology. The merging of sex and text. The phenomenon began in the younger demographic of our country and is moving through all age groups.
This personal struggle and very public embarrassment draws attention to much larger issues we are all facing. Technology grows faster than our guidelines. Simple as that. Systems exist without any specified structures and mores. Plenty of wiggle room in the the cyber community for line crossing. Boundary pushing. The challenge is the line is declared after it’s been crossed. The Boundary is Defined after people have pushed it.
A PR professional was ranting on his (ironic) blog the other day about how “friends” on Facebook are no friends at all. He cited his recent experience of wishing Facebook friends happy birthday and receiving any acknowledgment back. For decades our society has had Miss Manners and Emily Post and a host of other societal/manners guides to help us all get along in all manner of social exchange. For a lot of people “showing up” in social media is like thinking you are going to a contra dance and ending up in a Rave. Quite a surprise. Most of it not pleasant. Some of it even dangerous and … line crossing.
Aside from the very sorry story of a man in politics struggling with sexual/power/prowess issues (I sad Sorry, not Surprising) we are missing an incredible opportunity to have essential conversation about a whole new way of community. And an entirely new way of communicating. Each month we move closer to the material of science fiction books ( think of the “replicator” of Star Trek and know that the nascent technology is unfolding as you read this). And with each of those steps we move further out on the unsupported branch of cyber community.
Cyber community, Instant Communication is not the end of the matter. It’s only the beginning. This is our era’s version of the Wild West. The West was WILD because it was all new. Up for grabs. Uncharted. Ungoverned. Anthony Weiner’s personal issues are a call for public comment and discovery. NOT about Anthony…but about the very platform that allowed his personal problem to be articulated. This isn’t a call for legislation and oversight: this is a call for exploration, openness and a willingness to come, as a culture, to some civil agreement on how we all get to play together in this new, world wide, community. It’s a big playground – some basic ground rules are essential for the safety and well being of all who play there.
So the next moment somebody brings up the specific, small subject of this one man from New York who is facing his personal demons in a very public arena, lift the conversation up a few notches. Swerve around salacious gossip and go for solutions. Talk about the bigger issue and see if you can extract some meaningful value out of what is quickly disintegrating into unqualified stone throwing.