Keep a lid on your Cybermouth

on December 5, 2014

I happened to be at the San Francisco 49er game against the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving, a game that, for most of us in the Bay Area, we would like to forget. At the end of the game, 49er’s owner Jed York tweeted the following message:

Thank you for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn’t acceptable. I apologize for that.

8:31 PM – 27 Nov 2014

The Bay Area sports talk shows have been all a-twitter about how an owner could throw his team under the bus even if they performed poorly or whether this was an intentional comment to lay the groundwork for getting rid of their controversial coach. My personal belief is this was sent at a point of emotional frustration and, if Jed York had to do it over again, he would not have created a tweet of this nature that turned out to be very controversial.

However, the idea of putting your own foot in your mouth is not new. I am sure people have been doing this for centuries. However, in this digital age, foot-in-mouth disease can spread at the speed of light if it is put on Twitter or Facebook.  

It seems folks in the sports industry are famous for this disease. In May a Miami Dolphins player was fined for negative tweets about Michael Sams, the first openly gay pro football player. Major league Baseball has also levied fines for tweets. And the NBA has also been active in imposing fines on players for inflammatory rhetoric aimed at other players. 

However, others are not immune to this either. Remember Anthony Weiner, the politician who was caught “sexting” tweets to various women when he was in Congress? He did not seem to learn from that experience and had more sexting problems when he ran for mayor of NYC.

Commedian Gilbert Godfried lost his Aflac job because of a tweet. Actor Ashton Kutcher tweeted support for Penn State coach Joe Paterno and ended up deleting the tweet and apologizing for it. 

I could give dozens of more examples of tweets gone bad but perhaps everyone needs to come to grips with the fact that, whatever is put on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site, it is there pretty much for eternity. Even if you delete it that info it has been recorded on the Wayback site that has recorded over 450 billion of Web pages over time. Also there is a good possibility the site you post it on has to keep that info for legal purposes too.

Then there is the issue of liability and libel. There have been many stories over the years about the potential legal issues of liability and libeleous comments posted on social media sites. 

I no longer see these as idle threats. We who write for a living have this issue of liability and libel beaten into our conscience from our early school days and are extra careful when it comes to these issues. That lesson needs to be taught to everyone who posts on any social media site too.

I personally come from the old school. I was taught if I say anything about another person make sure it is good, not bad. That does not mean I am not critical at times but in those cases I try and do it diplomatically and without malice of any kind. I also have a rule of thumb I try to follow to the letter — do not tweet when I am angry or emotional about a subject. I make myself stop and think hard before I tweet in that state. I also have found I am not naturally a humorous person and what I think is funny may not be appropriate for others. 

With this in mind, I am very interested in what what our readers have in the way of their own rules, recommendations or guidelines about what they tweet or post. 

I would love to hear from as many folks that have the time to simply weigh in on your rules and suggestions you follow when you post on social media. 

I’d like to play the role of Miss Manners and collect as many suggestions I can get about posting etiquette and personal rules people have and will circle back and post them in a broader column I would like to do in a few weeks about proper etiquette for social media posts.  Any suggestions or commentary is appreciated.