As 2011 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the events of this past year. This year provided a cesspool of Twitter drama, much of which could have been easily avoidable. It seemed like there was a new big-name social media blunder each week. Everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Alec Baldwin, and even NATO have taken to Twitter like a crazed horde of gossiping preteens.
Kutcher’s Twitter account took a hit when he criticized Penn State for firing Joe Paterno without knowing all the details about the story. Once he heard the whole story, he tweeted an apology and shortly thereafter his account was handed over to a PR rep.
More recently, Alec Baldwin and American Airlines have been under scrutiny for some in-flight drama that escalated to a very public, overdramatic stream of insults on Twitter.
Just as the people posting ignorant statements to Twitter damage their reputations, sometimes it’s even worse for the people who actually respond to the haters. For example, Kansas governor Sam Brownback’s office tried to force an apology out of a high school student by going to her principal after she made some snide comments on Twitter during a visit to the governor’s office.
The most shocking Twitter drama for me is the passive-aggressive tweet war between @ISAFmedia, a representative from NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, and @ABalkhi, a member of the Taliban. Yes, it’s like junior high he-said-she-said gossip, BUT WITH GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AND TERRORISTS. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? Is there really no other way that NATO’s time and money can be spent?
As many of these big names have learned, one wrong move can turn 140 characters into a PR nightmare.
So what is it about Twitter that encourages celebrities and big brands to forget all concepts of socially acceptable interaction between adults? Maybe they need to go back to that simple adage we all learned in kindergarten, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” with the addition of “Plus, fighting on the internet makes you look like a tool.”
Just because Twitter allows everyone to have a voice about anything, doesn’t mean every gripe and comment needs to be taken public. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Would Ashton Kutcher really tell an official at Penn State that they have no class in person? Maybe. But would a government official ever call a terrorist a “dumb dumb” to their face? I don’t think so. Would a governor respond to a teenager inappropriately shouting at him at a rally by forcing her to come on stage and apologize? Absolutely not. Then why are they doing it online?
With 30,000+ followers, it can’t be because they think no one will notice. Nope, the problem is that Twitter prompts, “What’s happening?” and celebrities and brands tell exactly what’s happening or “what’s on their mind” without even thinking.
Okay, so the first step to improvement is recognizing that there’s a problem. What can be done? One commenter on one of the many stories published regarding the Alec Baldwin incident suggested that Twitter enact a deliberation period for tweets: “If you still want to send this tomorrow, then we’ll go ahead and do that, but you need to sleep on it first.” Sounds like a good idea to me.
Any social media mishap can be avoided, so long as the person posting thinks long and hard before hitting the “share,” “tweet,” or “submit” button. So celebrities and brands, please, for the love of all things holy, make it your New Year’s resolution this year to think before you tweet.
What do you think? Are you sick of the Twitter drama? Which other celebrities need to learn to think before they tweet? What do you think were the most memorable Twitter mishaps of 2011?