Traffic backed up on Woodmen

Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, signs autographs, Friday, Sept. 19,2008, during a rally at the Anoka County Airport in Blaine, Minn. (AP Photo/Janet Hostetter) Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Unlike most of my Generation Y counterparts, I was late to jump on the ubiquitous Facebook bandwagon. When it comes to technology, I'm a baby boomer wrapped in a Millenial's body. It took a meddling friend to intervene and save me from Internet obscurity by creating my Facebook page.

That was 2005 and I was a junior in college. Now, it's three years later and hardly a day passes without me obsessively checking that beacon of Internet stalker-ism.

It's hard to deny the unbelievable phenomenon that is Facebook. Started just four years ago, it has become one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet and the drug of choice for procrastinating students - and young writers like yours truly - everywhere.

But in addition to revolutionizing the way my generation communicates and socializes, it is also beginning to impact the way we pick our public leaders. Or, for that matter, who runs.

Consider the recent spat of Facebook-related political fiascos: in May, Gov. Bill Ritter's son created a stir by posting scandalous photos of a keg party he hosted at the governor's mansion. More recently, Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer was embarrassed when it was discovered that his son's Facebook profile was plastered with such distasteful slogans as "Slavery gets s*** done," and "What would Republican Jesus Do?" set across a background of a machine-gun-toting Jesus in front of a Confederate flag.

Classy.

Last summer, the daughter of presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani received national attention for belonging to the Facebook group "Barack Obama."

Few, it seems, are immune to Facebook's incriminating tentacles. And as a result, we'll begin to feel the impact on our elections 20 years from now. The media will have a field day with the amount of dirt that can be dredged up in political elections of the next few decades. Indeed, I've got incriminating digital photos of dozens of my Princeton classmates and plan to retire early once one of them runs for high public office - who needs a 401(k) when you've got the future Republican presidential nominee taking a bong hit?

Today, as you read this, the 2044 Democratic presidential candidate might be sitting in his dorm room at Yale and de-tagging an incriminating digital photo of himself that will no doubt resurface at some point in his political career, possibly destroying all hopes of ascending to the presidency.

The scary thing is, what if he should have ascended?

But perhaps there's a silver lining in all this. Perhaps Facebook is the great equalizer we've all been waiting for. Perhaps it will make us so incredibly de-sensitized to scandalous photos of politicians in their twenty-something glory days that we'll get beyond whether he smoked pot in college or had a penchant for kegstands, and judge them for who they truly are - not their kids, not their former selves, not their wives.

Besides, do we really want that squeaky-clean hall monitor with the pocket protector and zero social skills running our country? (Before I get a smattering of hate mail about this line, please note that I am a self-described "nerd" and think all "nerds" are cool; what I'm alluding to here, however, is a different sort; please notice the subtle difference). Aren't our mistakes what make us who we are today?

Although I'm a staunch Hillary supporter, I must admit that the portrayal of her as Tracy Flick, the main character of the movie "Election" played by Reese Witherspoon, was an interesting and plausible explanation for the vehement hatred she seemed to generate.Flick was an obnoxious, know-it-all perfectionist running for high school president whom everyone disliked because she was just so darn good at everything.

Our 20s are a time of self-discovery, character-formation, and yes, many a Sunday-morning regret. As every aspect of these times is becoming increasingly documented, if we continue to expect our politicians to have crystal-clear pasts, we're in for a disappointing leadership vacuum, filled only with the Tracy Flicks of the world, who have been carefully watching their Facebook tags, refraining from any sort of youthful activity that may remotely lend itself to future scandal, and crafting their political careers since they were in high school. And what fun are they?

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Lynch is an advisory member of The Gazette's editorial board. Write to Lynch at opinion@gazette.com.

 

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