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Ari Adler

Ari B. Adler

Don’t Blame Technology

July 18, 2011

There is a move afoot here in Michigan to send our elected officials back a generation by banning officials’ use of electronic devices during public meetings.

Seriously? Does the city of Sterling Heights have a publicly elected council or a student council? If they are adults, let’s treat them as such and stop the hyperbolic handwringing about violating the Open Meetings Act. I never saw anyone raise a fuss and suggest that council members can’t get up and whisper into another’s ear.

Technology, along with all its wonders and warts, is here to stay. It is pervasive in our lives and it is not going to be abandoned anytime soon. Why, then, should we be surprised when elected officials start to use it?

Why would we consider banning its use, especially by people elected to represent thousands or hundreds of thousands of people? If technological changes over the past three years have shown us anything, it’s that connecting to and having conversations with people is a major benefit.

Even in Washington, D.C., congressmen and congresswomen are all atwitter — not a-Twitter — about the ability to Skype with their constituents. Now that Skyping has been approved, I wonder how many of our nationally elected leaders will bother to find out what that means.

But I digress.

Employees not getting their work done, congressmen over-sharing on their Twitter stream and city council members zipping emails back and forth during a public meeting are not the fault of technology. They are not what happen because of social media. And they are not the reasons to ban high-tech devices, software programs and access to the web.

They are, instead, reasons to fire an employee, force a congressman to resign and possibly choose someone else for the city council in the next election cycle.

In short, none of the problems listed above is a social media problem. They all are a management problem.

Employees messing around on the Internet aren’t any worse than employees burning time on extended smoking breaks or spending too much time flirting with a secretary.

Congressmen who can’t keep their hands off themselves aren’t any worse because they also couldn’t help taking pictures of it.

And city council members sharing information clandestinely via emails during meetings aren’t any worse than the ones who have been doing so for decades in other ways.

What is worse is that we now have an easy scapegoat called “technology.” What we need is the chutzpah to stand up and take care of business the way it needs to be taken care of.

Employees who aren’t earning their paycheck need to be fired and told that it’s because they are a lousy employee. Congressmen who violate the trust of their constituents need to resign in disgrace and the media should make sure everyone knows why they are leaving so they can’t show up for re-election in the future. And city council members who are too busy passing notes or messing around on their iPads instead of devoting their attention to the business at hand at public meetings need to be booted from office. Then they can be replaced by someone who respects the voters who put them into office.

We have reached a point in society where we need an excuse to get rid of someone and move on to someone better. What we need is a return to the days when we could simply take action because we needed to.

Then, when the slackers ask how we dare to challenge their position and why we would want to negatively affect their career, we can simply say, “Go Google yourself.”

Ari B. Adler is a professional communicator with experience as a newspaper reporter and editor as well as a government and corporate spokesperson. He is the press secretary to Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger and an adjunct instructor at Michigan State University. You can follow him on Twitter at @aribadler.

July 16, 2011 · Filed under Adler Tags: , ,

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