In Defense of Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter
Social media was going to end shame, but it just ended up killing privacy instead
Earlier this week, Republican Senator Mitt Romney went viral on Twitter after Slate writer Ashley Feinberg uncovered his secret Twitter account. Romney — who’d chosen the pseudonym Pierre Delecto for his secret account — wasn’t using his Twitter presence to slide into women’s DMs, or engage in racist harassment, or do anything particularly out of character. On the contrary, Pierre Delecto’s social media habits were utterly mundane. He followed the accounts of Romney’s family, friends, and professional colleagues. He liked tweets that complimented Romney, or that aligned with his political views. At his most ambitious, he tweeted a few comments in defense of Romney’s politics — but really, nothing that would rise to the level of scandal. Why the need for a private account in the first place?
For years, commentators predicted that as millennials edged into adulthood, our social mores would begin to relax. The first cohort that had come of age on the internet, millennials’ youthful dalliances and mistakes were literally broadcast on sites like Facebook. And that, the predictions went, would necessarily shift social ideas about propriety. Revelations of debaucherous evenings that would have once been enough to wholly derail someone’s career would soon be shrugged off as relatively unremarkable. As Irin Carmon noted in a 2010 Jezebel piece on congressional candidate Krystal Ball’s risque party photos, “endless digital photos of party indiscretions, on Facebook and elsewhere, trail Millennials in a way that just didn’t exist before.” With everyone exposed online, there would be nothing to cause shame.
Some have tried to accelerate social media’s ability to put an end to shame by shining light into the seedier corners of human behavior. PostShame, a social media campaign founded by Adam MacLean, encourages aspiring public figures to take ownership of their past indiscretions by broadcasting them online. Cindy Gallop’s sales pitch for her “social sex” site MakeLoveNotPorn.tv has long argued that putting our sex lives in the public eye makes us all more comfortable with sex. And when Jeff Bezos’ nude photos were the subject of scandal earlier…