Petraeus’s Digital Obsession Led To His Downfall

Here lies the perfect example of the dangers of digital addiction, a real problem apparently, and also a great addition to everyone’s favorite Alanis Morissette karaoke song. CIA Director David Petraeus has been criticized for his digital communication compulsion exemplified through rapid responses to all emails and social media messages sent his way – and his constant Googling of himself.

Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes it was his “digital mania” that led to Petraeus’s real unraveling, she told CNN.

“There’s a ‘shift’ from an analog world in which our identities are generated from within to a digital world in which our sense of self is intimately tied to our social media presence….This shift to a Facebook world of incessant ‘friending,’” said Turkle, “is a ‘seductive fantasy’ which is weakening us both as individuals and as a society.”

Petraeus resigned from his post on Friday after admitting he had an extra-marital affair with his also married-with-children biographer, Paula Broadwell. As the story unfolds, his mistress who fed his self-obsession with her book all about him, allegedly made attempts to blackmail him too, emailing family friends about their relationship, which triggered  a formal FBI investigation, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports. And, isn’t it ironic…don’t you think?

“It is with sad irony that it was an affair with an adulatory biographer that has sabotaged his ambitions,” said a senior officer, who knows Petraeus well, to the The Sunday Telegraph in the US. “General Petraeus is a man obsessed by his own image.”

The article went on to say that while the general was admired by many ambitious officers as a model and mentor, Petraeus’s peers viewed him as “a vaulting careerist who crafted his portrayal in the media for his own personal ambitions.”

And, when you hear the story of how the two star-tangled lovers met, in the article, you’ll see exactly how Petraeus’s addiction to touting himself via technology was his Achilles heel all along:

Mrs Broadwell and General Petraeus met in 2006 at Harvard when she was studying for a masters degree at the university’s Kennedy School of Government when he gave a class there. After the lecture, she introduced herself and the visiting officer answered her follow-up questions on counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism.


With his help, she moved on to a PhD dissertation entitled ‘A case study of General Petraeus’s leadership.’


Mrs Broadwell spotted an opportunity to turn her dissertation into a book and negotiated a deal with Penguin Press, bringing in Vernon Loeb, a Washington Post editor, to help. She boasted of her access to her subject in a hagiographical work that some reviewers said amounted to a gushing love letter.


‘I took full advantage of his open-door policy to seek insight and share perspectives,’ she wrote in All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, published in January.

An unnamed source, quoted in the article, claims to have known Mrs Broadwell for several years, including having briefed her for the book. She said, “Over that time, she went from someone very likeable to a shameless, self-promoting prom queen. A very disturbing shift in how she carried herself. If she knew [Gen Petraeus] was going to make an appearance at an event, she’d crash it without an invitation.”

See where your 50 Instagram shots in a day and Facebook pics taken of yourself by yourself can get you? Just sayin’. Check yourself before you rep yourself – too much.


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