Rep. Anthony Weiner has admitted to posting racy photos of himself on Twitter. During a surreal press conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan on Monday, the New York congressman admitted to a host of poor decisions, including the posting of lewd photos of himself on Twitter, lying to the public repeatedly and inappropriate contact with women who are not his wife, Huma.

Much like former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, we never like to let a serious crisis go to waste. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five things to learn from Rep. Weiner and what the press have dubbed Weinergate.


1. If it’s not a direct message, it’s not private
This story broke because Weiner accidentally posted a photo of his crotch on his Twitter account. He meant to send it to a young woman in Seattle as a direct message. The difference between a direct message and a public message is one letter — d.

Twitter on how to send a private message:

Begin your message with a letter “d” and the username of the follower your wish to message, like this: d Olivia

If it’s not a direct message, it’s public information, even if you delete it. Unfortunately for Weiner, there is a website that tracks all congressional Tweets. The Library of Congress tracks all tweets from everyone.

So don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the Library of Congress to see.


2. Who you follow on Twitter matters
When the scandal broke, Weiner was following 198 people, many of them young, attractive women, one of whom is adult film actress Ginger Lee. Many people concluded, before the facts were in, that Weiner was a player.

What does this mean for you?

Anyone can see who you follow – including potential employers.


3. Lying does not work
It didn’t work for President Clinton, who was impeached by the House. It didn’t work for Gov. Sanford, who could have run for president. It didn’t work for Rep. Weiner, who could have been mayor of New York. And it probably won’t work for you. Why? Forget the moral implications. Lying is the path of greatest resistance. It’s hard. It takes a lot of energy.

Dana R. Carney, who studies social judgment and decision making at the Columbia Business School, writes: “Lying is costly, extracting physiological and cognitive tolls from most people. The body of research on lying consistently shows that people become stressed when they do not tell the truth. The speed with which they process information slows down, possibly because lying requires keeping track of the lie and the truth while simultaneously trying to suppress nervous habits or other signs that might give the liar away.”

To paraphrase a great line from West Wing, tell the truth, if for no other reason than it’s the easiest thing to remember.


4. It’s still cheating, even if you never meet
This is one of those classic debates. Is it cheating if you never meet? Or never have sex? In this case, the answer is yes, and here’s why. If what Weiner did was socially acceptable, he would have never tried to cover it up. The fact that he went to great lengths to hide what he did says to everyone that he knows his actions were wrong.


5. We need to close the funny gap
The jokes have been flying around the Internet for days. We’re just as guilty as anyone.

Because it’s such an easy joke, most of them fall flat. As comedian John Ross Bowie wrote today in his Twitter feed, “Congratulations, Twitter! You can all write for Leno!”

Of all the indignities suffered by the American people this past week, this might prove the unkindest cut of all.