Moran: Navigating the Internet age, Mini Abe takes his talents to Lake County

Mini Abe and Goliath | courtesy of Visit Lake County.
Mini Abe and Goliath | courtesy of Visit Lake County.

Yes, that was Mini Abe you saw all over Lake County this week, doing his bit to drum up staycation tourism.

He rode the Hurricane Vortex at KeyLime Cove. He tried a double-decker at Bill’s Pizza & Pub in Mundelein. He sailed on Lake Michigan with the Waukegan Yacht Club Youth Foundation.

But as the 12-inch Travel Illinois pitchman traveled from Deerfield (Cadwell’s Grill) to Fox Lake (Gordy’s Marine) to Spring Grove (Richardson Adventure Farm) to Vernon Hills (WhirlyBall), one thing he did not do was perform any acts that were “not family-friendly.”

Mini Abe also did not use “inappropriate language,” which doesn’t seem hard, since he is a doll, and his vocabulary seems a bit limited.

Those two things are among the list of Don’ts included in the “Mini Abe Social Media Toolkit” that accompanies the spokesmodel wherever he roams on behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism.

That’s right — there are rules when it comes to borrowing Mini Abe No. 1 (labeled as such to differentiate him from the many other Mini-Abes also on the roster and/or available for sale) who comes packaged in a Tupperware-style case that also contains the aforementioned user’s manual.

The News-Sun sneaked a peek at the manual as Mini Abe relaxed in his carrying case, waiting for his next close-up at one Lake County stop. Here are some of the measures included to protect not just him but all of us from unsavory exploitation:

• Local convention-and-visitor bureaus arranging for a visit are invited to “capture photo content of Mini Abe visiting noteworthy attractions in your region,” but before anything is posted to social media, it has to be submitted to an Enjoy Illinois team that will “provide feedback and approvals on posts.”

• On the “Do” list, we have “use #MiniAbe hashtag with all content.” There’s also a tip to “speak in the voice of Mini Abe.” There’s no follow-up instruction on that, but we can assume it involves sounding statesmanlike or like a shorter Daniel Day-Lewis.

• The “Don’t” list advises against taking “low-quality photos or videos.” This most likely rules out Super-8 cameras or anything manufactured before 2011.

• Another “Don’t” involves posting “Mini Abe content that is not related to your destination and its offerings.” In other words, no, you don’t get to take Mini Abe home and take pictures of him fighting President Business amid your awesome basement LEGO set.

• Users are also asked not to “post content that you aren’t 100 percent comfortable in sharing,” and are further asked to direct “questions or gut-checks” to the Enjoy Illinois ruling committee.

• How do we know what might be appropriate for this 2014 version of The Great Emancipator? On another page titled “Persona,” we’re told that he’s “like an alter ego of Abe, only smaller,” and that “he has a little more ‘spark’ and gruffness, and is a tad Napoleonic.”

• In addition, Mini Abe is said to be “curious with a side of mischief,” and “while he might start a sentence with ‘Always maintain a high regard for the people,’ he may end it (with) ‘bro.’”

All told, all these Mini Abe mandates remind us that while he might be outspoken, “he is also a family-friendly ambassador for Enjoy Illinois, so social posts should not be mean or offensive.”

Basically, this means that Mini Abe and his users have to follow the same warning that we give our teenagers: Be careful about what you throw out there, because the Internet is forever.

In fact, I believe Abraham Lincoln said those exact words during his Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.

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