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Don't Tweet That: Social Media Stupidity Sticks Around

Don't Tweet That: Social Media Stupidity Sticks Around

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Published by Eric Kipling
USA Today Article about Twitter.
USA Today Article about Twitter.

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Published by: Eric Kipling on Mar 20, 2013
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07/07/2013

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3/20/13 10:55 AMDon't tweet that: Social media stupidity sticks aroundPage 1 of 5http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/19/age-old-bad-judgment-lives-long-in-digital-age/2001557/
Don't tweet that: Social media stupidity sticks around
Twitter turns 7 on Thursday, and here's a wish to wish while blowing out the candles:Would someone explain why, given the slew of highly publicized cases of embarrass-ing, self-destructive or career-ending uses of social media, people keep shooting them-selves digitally in the foot?Exhibit A is Steubenville, Ohio, where graphic tweets and posted photos and videohelped convict two high school football players of raping a 16-year-old girl. That wasSunday; the next day, two girls were arrested and accused of making online threatsagainst the accuser and victim.
STORY:
Steubenville rape case driven by social media
MORE:
2 charged with threatening girl in Ohio rape caseIt was merely the latest evidence that an immutable law of human nature and a key tohuman survival — we learn from our mistakes — seems to have been suspended online.Dave Kerpen is CEO of Likeable Media, a social media marketing firm. "My hope is thatpeople will learn, and I wish I could say that they are," he says. "But if anything, we'reseeing more and more of this foolishness. I don't see it going away."That's because the problem is not the technology, says Steve Rubel, chief content strate-gist for Edelman public relations. It's us."The technology just magnifies what's already there. It's an accelerant. Social media has-n't dramatically altered human behavior, it just makes it more apparent. If you incrimi-nate yourself, it's more discoverable, more distributable and more embarrassing."Social media are an indispensable megaphone for the famous — if they use it responsi- bly — from newly installed Pope Francis to President Obama to Tiger Woods and Lind-sey Vonn, who used it this week to announce they were in a relationship — and to ask for privacy. For the rest of us, it's a convenient way to stay in touch.But no matter how many people learn their lesson about online safety — personally or
 
3/20/13 10:55 AMDon't tweet that: Social media stupidity sticks aroundPage 2 of 5http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/19/age-old-bad-judgment-lives-long-in-digital-age/2001557/
Just how many Twitter users are there?
2009 - 2012
The micro-blogging service started out with just over 5000 users in 2007 but today claims over 400million registered users.
vicariously — so many new users pour onto the Internet each month that public educa-tion always lags behind practice.Twitter, for instance, now counts more than 400 million tweets a day, compared withabout 340 million a day a year ago; 32 million at the beginning of 2010; and 2 million ayear before that.And these users are disproportionately young — in many cases more adept technologi-cally than socially, especially outside an immediate circle of peers. Those most fluent inthe new social technology are often least aware of its potential dangers.Of course, everynew technology(Facebook is twoyears older thanTwitter, the photosharing service In-stagram four years younger) takes us time to master.Early telephone users had to learn how begin the conversation — the use of "Hello!" has been attributed to Edison himself and how to end it. (At first, some people simplyhung up when the conversation lagged.)It all helps explain the steady stream of new social media horror stories — what folk-lorists call "cautionary tales" — that are supposed to be self-limiting.Since the perilous cave days, humans have used such stories to teach survival lessons.Classically, there's a threat (say, fire); a taboo (children shouldn't play with matches); aviolation (child plays with matches); and a result, often grisly (child sets himself on fire).With social media, the problem is clear: Good, old-fashioned stupidity has become pub-lishable, distributable, retweetable, immortal. Kerpen frames the dilemma this way: "So-cial media is here to stay, and foolish is here to stay."Such was the case in Steubenville. Alexandria Goddard, a 45-year-old web analyst andformer Steubenville resident, focused attention on the case by digging up photos and
 
3/20/13 10:55 AMDon't tweet that: Social media stupidity sticks aroundPage 3 of 5http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/19/age-old-bad-judgment-lives-long-in-digital-age/2001557/
texts sent on the night of the attack."It is one thing to hear the rumors, but I think when people actually saw the tweets, andthe vile things that were said, with their own eyes, it really drove home just how dis-gusting the behavior of these kids was," she wrote in her blog this week.The texts introduced at the trial included those in which one of the students, TrentMays, admitted to digitally penetrating the girl. In other messages, he told friends he'dparticipated in a different, mutual sex act with the girl. He also sent messages to friendsasking them to cover up what happened. In one text he asked, "Just say she came toyour house and passed out."
POLITICAL CAREER IMPLODES
The great social media cautionary tale is Anthony Weiner's. The sharp, articulate Demo-cratic congressman from Brooklyn was on his way to becoming mayor of New York City until two years ago when he accidentally used his public Twitter feed (as opposedto a direct message) to send a female Twitter follower (other than his wife) a link to aphotograph of his bulging underwear.Weiner has lots of company.Some online mistakes are merely embarrassing, like last September when actress AlisonPill of HBO's
The Newsroom
posted a topless photo intended for her boyfriend's eyes, toher Twitter account.Some are costly. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried was the voice of the Aflac duck in commer-cials until he joked about the Japanese tsunami on Twitter ("Japan is really advanced.They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them.").Some are final. Actress Nicole Crowther, an extra on the TV series
Glee,
tweeted someplot spoilers two years ago, to which producer Brad Falchuk tweeted "Hope you're qual-ified to do something besides work in entertainment."Sports figures feature prominently in the Twitter doghouse. They include former Chica-go White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was suspended for two games after tweeting

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