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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Commentary

Another blunder shows need for social media restraint


Published:

Most people who use Twitter probably have experienced tweet regret: That tweet you thought was funny but crossed the line. The ornery tweet directed at a specific person. The TMI (too much information) tweet about a gastrointestinal experience. The alcohol-induced tweet. Yes. Those are the worst.

With that in mind, many participants in the Twitterverse winced for Justine Sacco, a public relations executive who posted a tweet last week that read: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Stupid, stupid, stupid. She lost her job at a prominent New York-based media company; made international headlines as an insensitive idiot; and last week issued a lavish (and evidently sincere) apology.

For some users, Twitter has a strange ability to make them feel connected, comfortable and safe, as if they’re at a big dinner party. It can be a platform for serious debate, news sharing and comedy, all in tiny bursts. Except they don’t disappear.

McDonald’s, too, learned Twitter the hard way. The company last year launched a campaign with the hashtag “McDStories” to promote products and employees, and invited Twitter users to tweet about their own compliments and experiences. The Twitter feed immediately became an outlet for complaints about the food, the atmosphere, the employee uniforms — everything. Animal rights groups flooded Twitter with unflattering stories of animal byproducts in the menu.

Using Twitter requires thought and restraint. Nobody wants to read our every thought, suffer through your rants or view endless pictures of your dessert. Or your cleavage. Or your dog. Or sunsets. Moderation is key. It’s not all about you.

But the most important rule: Don’t post anything stupid or embarrassing.

Think before you tweet.

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