June 2nd, 2011
07:35 PM ET

Letters to the President: #864 'Twitter wars'

Reporter's Note: The president loves new media. So do I, but only to a point.

Dear Mr. President,

Have you been following this dustup over Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s tweets? (No, I am not trying to be funny by saying that, but I must admit it looks pretty amusing in print.)

I’m sure by the time you read this there will be even more developments, but in a nutshell a picture of a guy’s underwear-clad pelvis was tweeted from the congressman’s account to some woman. He says it was a hacker’s work. Reporters have questioned him about the details. Tempers have flared and now, who the heck knows what really happened?

It’s all the more reason, I think, for grown people of a serious mind to stay away from tweeting in public. I know that you are kind of a “new media” guy - trotting the globe with your fire-breathing BlackBerry, and Bluetoothing yourself to every passing BMW. I suspect you think Twitter is just wonderful. I do too - for the right people in the right places. But they need to know precisely how to use it, and how it might be used against them.

I have a Twitter account, for example, and a fair number of followers although I have no idea what they are following. I tweet only about once every three months and then only to say something like, “Mmmm…salami!” (Which, in a way, I guess, is what the Weiner tweet controversy is all about. Ha!) Clearly, I don’t know how to use this thing.

But I do know this: If you start inviting people to be interested in every detail of your life, some will be, and not all of them will be nice about it. I love the Internet. I adore the quick access it gives to information of all types. I believe young people today can learn more about the world much faster than I did as a child, and I envy them the experience.

I also think the Internet has become a cruel town square, where accusations and defenses are too often judged less on their merits than on whether they fit into 140 characters. Those who tread into that village do so at their own peril, and the more you hang around, the greater you run the risk of making a mistake and/or being targeted.

So whatever comes of the congressman’s difficulties, I think this should be a cautionary tale. He who lives by the tweet, can be struck down by it, too…fairly or not.

Call if you get a moment. But all things considered, don’t email. Ha!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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