Use Twitter - Just Don't Be Stupid About It
One week Rosanne Barr's television show gets cancelled because of a racist Tweet from Rosanne, and the next week, the Philadelphia 76'ers of the NBA can General Manager Bryan Colangelo because of fake Twitter accounts, or at least passing along confidential team info to whoever had them. When will they learn?
I saw somebody on television exclaim "This is why I'm not on Twitter. People should just stay off Twitter."
I don't agree. I think Twitter is great. It's the best way to find out about news as it happens. If you use Twiiter, or any other social media platform for that matter, just don't be stupid about it.
How and Why Rosanne?
I saw actor Jim Parsons interviewed on CNN a week or so ago. The Big Bang Theory star was asked to give his thoughts on the racist Tweet that got Rosanne Barr fired from her show and he said he thought two things – “how and why”. How could anyone in her position send such a Tweet and why would she do it. His “how and why” thoughts mirror mine and I’m sure many others as well.
To me, personal social media meltdowns are such a frustration. People don’t seem to understand when you’re doing anything on social media, others are paying attention. I’ve heard so many people who got into trouble over a social media post, seem to be surprised that what they said had an effect on anyone else. It’s almost as if they’re shocked it was noticed. That’s why they call it social media.
It’s a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to social media. If you would be embarrassed if your post showed up on the front page of the newspaper the next day, then don’t hit the send button. Nobody is forcing anyone to post anything. It’s not as if you’ve been kidnapped and your kidnappers are forcing you to say something crazy on social media.
Maybe people need some kind of filter on social media. Perhaps Twitter could quickly scan the words that have been typed and, as an example, if something racist is typed there could be a pop up on the screen that says “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO SAY THAT?” or “ARE YOU READY TO ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS TWEET?”
Words Are Stark and Cold
People misusing social media sometimes have the same issue as people who put confrontational statements and opinions in writing. Several years ago, I was CEO of what was then the Alberta Home Builders’ Association and I had volunteer Presidents who wanted to fire off a letter to the government or another group they weren’t happy with. A few emailed me exactly what they wanted to say. I had to tell them we couldn’t send a letter containing those words. I remember one President saying to me, “That’s the way I would say it, so that’s the way it should go in a letter.”
I told him he very well may say it that way, but it comes off much stronger in print and seems much more confrontational. When the comment is made face to face, the other person can read your body language, ask questions or give some feedback to see where you’re coming from. They can’t get that from a letter, nor can they from social media.
Words in social media posts, or any written form are stark, cold and don’t carry anything to tell the person reading what you’ve said what your emotions are. It’s the same with email, which is why people need to be so careful when sending offensive emails.
Save Your Breath
I see far too many people with words to this effect as part pf their Twitter profiles, “Comments made on this account are mine alone, and have nothing to do with my bosses or employer.”
Save your breath.
You can write whatever you want to distance yourself and your comments from your employer and others you’re associated with, but it doesn’t matter. Does anyone really believe that a disclaimer saves you from anything? If you’re the CEO of a company that deals with the government and you post something incredibly stupid about a person in political office, do you really think the company’s Board of Directors, or shareholders would shrug it off and say “Well, those are his personal comments, they don’t affect the job he does as our CEO.” Of course they do.
A few weeks ago, a woman went on a racist rant in a Lethbridge restaurant. It was caught on video and it turned out the woman worked for a Dodge dealership in Cranbrook, BC. She was fired just a matter of hours after her bosses saw the video.
People can say all they want about the need for the world to accept that people have personal lives and personal opinions and they don’t affect the job they do. That may be true, but that’s not reality. The connection between what a person says and what they do for a living is too strong for many people to ignore. There are also more ways than ever for people who are upset with what somebody has posted to let the world, and the person’s bosses know how upset they are and what consequences the writer should face.
Line of the Year
Rosanne claimed she was on Ambien at the time she sent the Tweet that got her show cancelled. The producer of the sleeping pill responded with the classic line “Racism is not a known side effect of Ambien.”
Citing any reason for irresponsible social media behavior is a losing proposition, but what about the legal side of this issue? Can a company in Canada fire somebody, or at least suspend them or put them on notice for stupid things posted on social media?
It has happened and it will continue to happen. Whether it’s because of a social media post or doing something that gets caught on video that’s widely spread through the media and social media, companies have fired people, or strongly disciplined them. The key point is whether the company’s brand was adversely affected. Although there’s a lot of grey area, if the brand was affected, chances are there will be no recourse for the employee.
Nor should there be.