Carmen Kontur-Gronquist served as mayor of Arlington, Oregon until some photos of questionable taste were discovered on her personal MySpace page. The pictures were apparently posted prior to her mayoral run in 2005, but townspeople got worked up anyways and ousted her. We can all guess what followed: mental distress, a circuit on the morning news shows, and a book deal (well not yet, but give it time). As I listened to her story, it seemed like the former mayor’s mishap occurred precisely so I’d have something to blog about! I jest, of course. But it really did shed light on some of the larger issues posed in our class.
Throughout the semester, we’ve discussed the role of social networking through the internet. People choose to share personal details for a number of reasons. For some, blogs are a platform to vent frustrations. For others, Facebook is the site of choice to stay connected and provide updates about their lives. But the bigger question is, do we consider the consequence of the information we put out there? In at least two prior posts, I’ve mentioned that as graduate students, we’re likely to exercise greater judgment in our internet revelations than our younger peers. However, the story about the former mayor completely contradicts the notion that wisdom comes with age. To be honest, I didn’t find her MySpace photo particularly “racy” – greater beings have been known to do worse. However, regardless of the reasoning behind posting the photos (by many accounts to a) meet a man and b) promote fitness), I can’t fathom why she didn’t think to delete the photos, or the entire page for that matter, once she decided to run for mayor.
As we discussed last week in class, people google everyone and everything; this holds true for celebrities, politicians, or your average Joe applying for a job. Clearly the former mayor was internet savvy enough to create her own MySpace page. Yet, she didn’t seem to understand that as a public figure, she’d become “google-worthy” and that her site could be used to destroy her reputation and career. She, like countless others before her, is likely to rebound from all this and move on to bigger and better things. But Kontur-Gronquist’s story is a great example of the power of social networking sites; they can make or break you, but the scales often seem tipped towards the latter...
On a personal note, I won’t be able to attend our last class since I’m heading to Ecuador on Tuesday. I really enjoyed this course, and it’s been fun reading everyone’s posts each week. Good luck with the rest of the semester!