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Some Twitter Advice For Politicians In The Post-Weiner Age

First Posted: 06/07/11 05:50 PM ET Updated: 08/07/11 06:12 AM ET

Fail Whale

With Anthony Weiner's Twitter trouble still fresh in our minds, let's take a moment to address how elected officials should proceed, from here on out, in their dealings with the popular social media service. I'd imagine that there will be any number of "think pieces" to come on the matter, as well as the obligatory ruminations on "how we live now" in "this modern world." I'd like to uncloud and demystify all of these matters in advance, by offering some simple solutions.

So, politicians! Let's begin by discussing how all of these terrible scandals can be avoided by taking measures to fully optimize your Twitter experience. I've used my Twitter account to explore the matter fully, and I can tell you that all you need to do is follow a simple and intuitive process:

1. Browse to your Twitter account, and log in.

2. Over on the right hand side of your screen, at the top of the page, you will see your Twitter handle next to a pull-down menu.

3. Click on that pull-down menu, and select "Settings."

4. The page should open on the tab marked "Account." If for some reason it doesn't, just click on the "Account" tab.

5. Once you are on the "Account" tab page, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

6. Click where it says, "Deactivate my account."

7. Deactivate your account.

8. There! You are now worry-free!

You think I'm joking about this, of course. But I'm not. I'm absolutely serious about this. You need to deactivate your account this very moment.

Right about now, you're probably thinking, "But why should I have to get rid of my Twitter account? I haven't sent out any crotch pictures using Twitter?" That we know of, Congresscritter. That we know of. But here's the thing: maybe you aren't transmitting or receiving stroke pics to and from your Twitter followers, but I've been watching your various misadventures with Twitter for some time. I've seen Senator John McCain use his Twitter to speak of his important feelings for Snooki. I've seen Peter Hoekstra idiotically breach security protocol on an Iraq-bound codel using Twitter. I've watched ignorance about hashtags turn a campaign website into a font of opposition research that worked against the candidate. And I've seen a partisan coup in the Virginia State Senate fail because one of the people involved couldn't wait to tweet about it, so he gave up the game before it had even begun.

And yes, of course, I've seen Chuck Grassley attempt to use Twitter, only to come up with stuff like this: "Xtra delite of #99countytour: gr8 per4mance byWSioux Vocal jazz&DirktorJimG at Haywarden Hoso Tues nite I really njoy." I know that complaints about this make you all testy, Chuck, but you have to understand, most of us are managing to tweet using the English language. And many more are able to tweet in their native tongue. So there's no excuse for your Twitter output to look like it was written by a fat-fingered poltergeist from Mars.

Let me put it this way. Two winters ago, Newark Mayor Cory Booker was widely praised as a Twitter innovator in politics because he tweeted to people as he perambulated around the city, shoveling snow. Last winter, Cory Booker was praised for the same thing. I imagine that this winter, he'll be praised again. But my takeaway is that one politician, named Cory Booker has figured out a productive use for Twitter. And even in that instance, he's actually being praised for the way he found a productive use for a snow shovel.

It's really about what you all are shoveling, and my verdict is that you are doing it wrong.

Now, I'm sure you are going to protest and say that Twitter is a unique and innovative way for you to communicate with voters. Anthony Weiner said much the same thing at his weepy press conference yesterday, in what had to have been the most poorly-timed moment of social media evangelism in the history of humans. I hate to break it to you, but Twitter has not proven to be a game-changer in public servant-to-constituent communications. (Unless we're talking about the crotchshots, and in that case, I concede you have a point!) Lawmakers have been elected to office and re-elected to office for time immemorial without Twitter, and you can be too.

Remember how a few weeks ago, Mitt Romney put out a web video that talked about how he was forming a presidential exploratory committee? His initial announcement went out on Twitter, and people were just straight losing their minds about how cool that was. Yeah, man! Mitt Romney's taking his message right to the people, dude! He's not reliant on the media gatekeepers to get his message out! He's going unfiltered and direct to the voters, man!

I can't even begin to tell you what astounding bullshit that is! Mitt Romney doesn't even have 50,000 twitter followers. And many of the people who follow him are journalists. So, Mitt Romney took his announcement right to those media gatekeepers, and reaped the added benefit of all of those media gatekeepers writing a story about how he was breaking with tradition and being hip and cool and social media enabled, dude! That's basically the only skillful use of Twitter I've seen from politicians, and it involved an elaborate con.

You all need to accept the fact that you're really not doing anything amazing with Twitter. So why are you using it? My guess is that you find the process of accruing followers on Twitter feeds your need for validation and instant gratification. Which is exactly how Anthony Weiner used it. So while none of you have gone as far to ruin your lives as damagingly as he did, it's nevertheless true that you are all carriers of the same disease.

Lots of people are asking, "What was Anthony Weiner thinking?" And I'm surprised this is perplexing people! Anthony Weiner was thinking the same thing the rest of you think, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week: "I am invisible and bulletproof." It's easy to see why you guys think you're invisible: y'all tried one or two things to solve the unemployment crisis, gave up, and got the media to report that you ran out of ideas. And it's easy to see why you guys think you're bulletproof: even in an election cycle that was supposedly riven with "anti-incumbent rage," 87% of House incumbents and 84% of Senate incumbents retained their seats.

What Weiner found out, to his enduring humiliation, is that Twitter is one of the most transparent and shrapnel-ridden venues on the internet. So if you want to have any shot at maintaining your imperviousness, you have got to get off Twitter right now. No one thinks that this episode will mark the end of social media-enabled scandals. We're just curious how Weiner's antics will be topped. And one of you will find a way to top them.

Oh, I should mention: if you're a female member of Congress, you can ignore everything I've written above. For now. We'll be watching. As for the rest of you: SHUT IT DOWN.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]

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