When you visit sites like Facebook or Twitter, you may find amazing people, insightful commentary, and hilarious jokes. But as with most great things, there are a few downsides. The amazing speed encourages us to respond, and we can get into all sorts of trouble. The solution to most of these problems, boring as it may be, is just slowing down. Since you really don’t want to do that, we have some concrete “do-not’s and … more “do-not’s. Not a lot of “do’s” here. So here are some ways you can react to things online.
Social media rewards rapid response. You can go back and forth, literally moving at the speed of light. Or you must get this legendary joke out to the public before someone else does. Also, the people who speak loudest and fastest tend to have the most people listening to them. And social media networks know this. They put that “reply” field there for a reason.
Speaking quickly is often hilarious and profitable, but speaking quickly online presents unique problems. Consider an example: If you scream “You’re a jerk!” at your boss during a meeting, your colleagues may be dazzled or intimidated, and you will probably get fired. Later, your coworkers will talk about the incident in whispers. And outside the company, people might never hear about it. It would probably not ruin your life.
But online, everything stays in the public record. Even if you delete the offending words, someone may save a screenshot of it. Or it was archived in the Library of Congress. Many lives have been destroyed because of something they blurted out on social media. There’s the woman who made a racist joke, got on a plane, and several hours later discovered that her tweet had gone viral, and she was now widely hated. There’s no excuse for racist jokes, but stupid jokes do occur every once and a while. Helping people to have a good mental filter is something that social media doesn’t foster.
Social media also makes everything you say more important. Things that might seem funny when said out loud as a passing statement may seem a lot worse when they are written down and “published.” Your words are just hanging there, giving people time to pore over them and pick out all the meanings you never even considered.
Dragging Someone Else into Your Drama
There is this fun feature on Twitter that you can use to tag someone else and make sure they see your message and any replies to that message. On the one hand, it’s a way to involve people in a conversation that might interest them, but it’s also a terrible thing to do another human being.
It’s often not good. The person you’ve tagged probably wants nothing to do with your conversation, regardless of the person who tagged them. This friend of yours definitely does not want to see the rambling answers of others. And these conversations can go on for eternity. Imagine if your phone beeped or buzzed every time someone posted in a random YouTube comment thread. Ugh.
The worst is when someone with a lot of followers tags someone, it gets much worse. Your followers are usually people like you, except less clever and much meaner. If you’ve got a lot of followers, tagging someone (particularly an enemy) is a good way to fill that person’s notifications with hundreds of angry comments made by less intelligent versions of yourself.
This is an example of another irritating scenario: You insult a celebrity. Happens all the time. But then one of your followers tags in that celebrity. Now you’re in an awkward conversation with the actual celebrity. On top of being incredibly uncomfortable for the person who insulted the celebrity, it’s terrible for the person who was the object of the insult. How are they supposed to react? Some people hide under thick blankets every time it happens. What does an actual famous person feel? That’s why they hire people to read Twitter for them.
Making Jokes at Inappropriate Times
Twitter is great for jokes. Telling jokes on Twitter requires knowing what everyone else is talking about. This is the only way you can understand the references that people make and understand their jokes. It will help you differentiate between when jokes are wanted and not.
The most glaring errors are those made on corporate Twitter accounts. Usually, companies write, proof, and edit all their tweets ahead of time, just to make sure all their messaging is on-brand and in line with the company spirit. The tweets are scheduled to be posted at a later time. By planning the timing of their jokes too carefully, these companies sometimes end up in the disaster they were trying to avoid.