Apparently, Rep. Anthony Wiener, D-N.Y., hasn’t heard of Tiger Woods or Bret Favre or even Elliott Spitzer. I realize there’s nothing new about a Washington insider being out of touch, but they are usually pretty savvy about their own images, which these days one would expect to include social media. Financial advisors, on the other hand, tend not to be so image-conscious, so perhaps Rep. Wiener’s problems might serve as a wakeup call that what happens on social media doesn’t necessary stay on social media.
Personally, I’m a social media dinosaur (as I suspect are many advisors who, like me, are 50-somethings). For one thing, I don’t seem to know people who are so interesting that their daily, or even weekly, activities are noteworthy. More important, I am acutely sensitive to the time-drain monster that social media is becoming. Just email alone is beginning to enslave me: like you, I’m sure, I get hundreds of emails a day. Just sitting here writing this, I can see a new email come in every minute or so. If I take a day off from dealing with these emails, I’m buried.
I even broke down and bought a Blackberry so I can deal with emails when I’m not at my computer (many apologies to my ex-wife, Leigh: I get the whole “Crackberry” thing now).
Now we’ve taken the email phenomenon (or treadmill) and put it on steroids, with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, texting, IM-ing, etc. It’s mindboggling, at least to this old mind. Who has time for all this? When we told people to “get a life,” is this really the best they could come up with?
But the biggest problem with social media isn’t the time/life drain: as Mr. Wiener has discovered, it’s the combination of its informality and its permanence. When most of us write, we think about what we’re saying (at least on good days). That’s because we realize that someday, someone may pull out something we’ve written and ask us about it. Maybe even in a court of law (not much of a stretch in our litigious society). Emails, and then IM-ing and texting, have changed that mentality: We tend to think of them as informal conversations, to which we write and respond, the same as we would on the telephone.
In fact, in his press conference yesterday, I heard Congressman Wiener say: “These were just informal communications betweens friends…”
But they are obviously not the same, unless you count about a billion viewers as “friends.” They are digital communications that are stored on servers, and data bases, and computers, and cell phones, and Blackberries, and who knows where else. Which means who knows who’s going to see or read those informal but permanent communications?
Now, I’m not suggesting that advisors stop emailing pictures of themselves in their underwear. That would be crazy. But perhaps you should put on a clean pair of Jockeys, get the lighting right, and strike an artful pose, ‘cause you never know how much “exposure” you’re really going to get: You could even end up on AdvisorOne someday…