Sarah Palin and tens of thousands of her gubernatorial emails are under the microscope for better or worse.

So far, a bombshell hasn’t dropped about the former 2008 vice presidential candidate, but the emails shed light on Palin’s Alaskan life before she became a household name in the lower 48 states.

But imagine the scrutiny. Could anyone’s emails hold up to such a comb through by media, a boss or even your friends? Egad, the horror.

Palin may be feeling the same squeamishness that we all would if such a thing happened to us. Even Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher shuddered via Twitter. “As much as I’m not a fan of Sarah Palin I find sifting through her emails repulsive and over reaching media.”

The former governor didn’t have a choice in the release of the emails. The state of Alaska released the emails Friday after media, including David Corn of Mother Jones, filed freedom of information requests. Corn filed his more than three years ago.

Most of the released emails are from Palin’s state account, but some are from personal email accounts that were sent through the state’s servers. One email shows Palin writing about Trig, her son who was born with Down syndrome, from God’s perspective. Another shows Palin wanting a tanning bed. Others focus on Palin’s frustration with media and one from daughter Bristol about needing “some cash flow.”

What parent of a teenager hasn’t had such an email or text about money? But would you want the world or possibly your employer to know that? Likely not.

Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist who conducted a 40-year study of chimpanzee social and family life, once said email was the most dangerous form of communication. Perhaps, it is. Goodall wrote, “Sometimes, e-mails come from people full of things you know they wouldn’t say on the telephone.”

Ah, there lies the hazard for Palin and the rest of us. Maybe that’s why Bill Clinton sent only two emails while president.

People confess things via email they would never say face-to-face or on the telephone. As social media connects more and more of the world, the world becomes smaller and caution often vanishes. I’ve had complete strangers confess their deepest sexual fantasies to me. Women have told me how they long for divorce. Others have sent horrible hate mail because they didn’t like the way I wrote about a subject. In the real world, I doubt any of them would say such things over a cup of coffee or a martini.

While a telephone call can be recorded (but how many people record every single conversation?), email and instant messages may last an eternity somewhere in cyberspace’s ether on a faraway server. They could pop in a divorce proceeding from a scorned spouse, a job evaluation or even at a family reunion. Email is a two-way street, and the person on the other end may just be collecting data.

The tweets today by teenagers could haunt them 20 years from now if they decide to run for president or even mayor. Did such worry concern Palin a few years ago when she fired off her missives? Likely no more than it worries any person who sends emails to friends, family and even work colleagues on a daily basis.

Perhaps we should heed a little caution.

As Adam Cohen pointed out recently in a Time magazine article: “The Constitution protects your home, your car, and your body from unreasonable searches. But the courts have been much less clear about whether it protects your Gmail or Yahoo! Mail account.”

If everyone becomes too vigilant, doesn’t that take the fun out of email and social media? Yeah, just a tad. Besides, most of us are too far gone with our email addiction to hesitate before hitting the “send” button, regardless of the consequences.


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