Think before you tweet

I worked with a guy who told me that getting older means realizing that every problem is really a communication problem.  He has two teenaged daughters, which likely contributed to the revelatory quality of this observation.

The word “communications” is in our job description, so we may be somewhat more concerned with it—or the lack of it—than the average person.  But it’s a hot-button topic for everyone in today’s wired, connected world.  Social media means we can instantly, easily connect with thousands, if not millions, of people in just a few seconds.

Which is both good news and bad news.  The reach, scope, and strength of online communication platforms gives us power.  The speed and relative effortlessness only add to its appeal.  How long does it take to compose and post a Twitter message?  Seconds.  You read a political article online; you comment about it on Facebook, with a link to the article.  A thread develops, involving your friends … then your extended network of friends … and then the article—with your opinion permanently attached to it—goes viral.  Next thing you know, Fox news is calling, asking you to appear on TV to expound on your opinion, which has now been read by millions of people worldwide.

Sure, this is a somewhat exaggerated scenario.  But it happens.  Sometimes it’s positive—even miraculous.  I’ve seen outreach messages cross international datelines and fund an uninsured patient’s lifesaving surgical procedure in less than 24 hours. 

I’ve also seen “tweets” that got people fired from their jobs in less than five hours.

The big difference between now and twenty years ago is the reach.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.  They’re all global.  Even product reviews on Amazon can be read by prospective customers thousands of miles away.  It’s all out in the open, 24 hours a day, in all countries, all time zones. 

Social media platforms are not the enemy.  They’re just a tool.  They’re neutral.  It’s our uses that turn them one way or the other. 

I’m not trying to scare you.  But if you are a little scared, that’s probably not so bad.  It might make you think before you tweet.

- Dave Duggins