I'm sure Their Royal Highnesses will be on their best behaviour when they descend upon Canada this week. If they're not, we'll all know about it in a heartbeat.
As some of the most enthusiastic users of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, Canadians are particularly suited to give the royal couple an electronic welcome and follow them online from Prince Edward Island to Yellowknife to Calgary. According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, 75 per cent of Canadian households have access to a cellphone. We send 186 million text messages a day, and you can bet some will be pithy comments about every aspect of the royal visit.
Everything from their fashion choices to a royal nose-picking will be worthy of a tweet or a Facebook status update. And while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge don't seem like the kind of folks who would pocket one of the University of Calgary's fancy pens, it might be worth reminding them about the fate of Czech president Vaclav Klaus, whose pen kleptomania recently went viral on YouTube.
Our federal government is also in on the social media action, with a royal tour of Canada iPhone app paid for by your tax dollars that allows users to track the couple every step of the way. Users of the BlackBerry and other devices must go to m.royaltour.ca to see a mobilized version of the content. There's an irony here, since most of the politicians and handlers swarming around the pair will undoubtedly be lugging BlackBerrys.
Official updates are available at The Crown in Canada (Facebook) and @TheCrownCa/@LaCouronneCa on Twitter. But where's the real dirt going to be? My money's on canny bloggers like orderofsplendor.blogspot.com, which already has hilarious photos of fashion gaffes from previous royal tours. It all derives from the royal tour fashion dictum: "No matter what someone hands you, you're gonna have to put it on and smile. Doesn't matter if it's actually cool."
William is going to face a fashion hurdle at the Calgary Stampede. Should he wear a bolo tie with the obligatory white hat? "Dear God, let's hope not," orderofsplendor writes. "That's not a good look for anyone." Kate's big fashion issue will be finding enough attractive clothing in red and white with maple leaves on it. Except, of course, in Quebec, where it should be blue, white and fleur-de-lys-y.
Are Kate and William ready to tweet back? That remains to be seen. Their wedding had its own Twitter hashtag (#rw2011) but that discussion has fallen onto hard times, with the most recent postings arguing, in Dutch, the relative merits of Beyoncé and the Kings of Leon. You could follow @ClarenceHouse (official but stodgy) or @katewilliam2011 (unofficial but a lot more interesting). The Duke and Duchess do not appear to have verified personal Twitter accounts yet. In the meantime, beware of imposters. @William_HRH is not Prince William, though the writer does come up with some funny comments like this in honour of Will's 29th birthday: "Thank you for the kind, if repetitive, messages. One is now getting smashed."
Lastly, I would like to remind the royal couple that there is a plus side to being under continuous surveillance from thousands of cellphones, paparazzi, security cameras and eager tweeters: Everything Their Highnesses do and say is on the record. Unless somebody gets really creative on them with Photoshop or video editing, they can deny embarrassing events that are actually untrue, and they will have the evidence to prove it.
This might spare them the fate of Madame Charles de Gaulle, who was widely reported to have made a language gaffe at her husband's retirement banquet. Asked what she was looking forward to in the years ahead, she is reported to have said "a penis." The former French president supposedly broke the embarrassed silence with "My dear, I think the English don't pronounce the word quite like that. It's 'appiness.' "
Good luck Will and Kate, I look forward to round-the-clock updates on your stay in this technology-savvy former colony.
Tom Keenan is a professor in the faculty of environmental design at the University of Calgary, and a keen observer of all things technological and cultural.