In today’s society, it appears that everything is based on instant gratification and our immediate reactions. Simply put, we want everything now. No place is that more apparent than on Twitter. Twitter is brilliant! Never in our history have we had the opportunity to reach so many people so fast, all by using only 140 characters (also known as tweets for my Twitter challenged friends). The amount of people who can be reached depends upon a tangled web of people users follow, people who follow them, and hashtags (search terms) that attract people by the things users say. Also, tweets can be “favorited” and “shared” to spread a message around the “Twitterverse” instantaneously. All of this means that Twitter can ignite controversy that can spread rapidly. Perhaps nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of sports.
How 140 characters can cause 140 problems?
The immediate thought that comes to mind is that people of influence in the sports world are more likely to get into trouble because of innocuous tweeting. This has been proven time and time again. Since we can’t control who chooses to follow us, our sports heroes are likely to have thousands of followers. It is easy to see how their words of wisdom can get them into hot water. Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones decided to try bobsledding as her next sports challenge. After vigorous training to master the sport, she sparked a lot of outrage over a tweet about the minuscule amount of pay she received. It may seem like a small thing to most, but for many Olympians worldwide who train constantly for their opportunity on the world’s biggest stage, it was an offensive comment. She backtracked from the tweet, but the damage was already done and a worldwide controversy was created.
Even family members and close associates of our sports heroes need to be mindful of their tweets. An innocent tweet that is supposed to stay in-house can quickly get out to the masses. Just this month, Dee Dee McCarron, the mother of star Alabama QB AJ McCarron, fanned the flames of racism with an innocent tweet about Florida State star QB Jameis Winston. While watching an interview with Winston just after his team won the national championship, Ms. McCarron took to Twitter to ask if Winston was “speaking English.” A person in her position who makes that remark is clearly going to get a lot of backlash, and she should have known better. On top of that, Winston just beat out her son days earlier to win the Heisman trophy, so it looked like there was a specific reason for the remark. She did have enough sense to quickly delete the tweet, but it was too late. It was already seen, copied, and posted for the world to see.
Most Twitter users will have a difficult time building a “fan base” of people who will view their tweets. In other words, their influence may not span beyond their circle of followers on Twitter. However, lately even this idea has been proven to be false. An example is when singer Marc Anthony sang God Bless America at the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. As the American-born singer crooned, the “Twitterverse” lit up with tweet after tweet by regular baseball fans questioning why a “Mexican” or “foreigner” was chosen to sing God Bless America. Of course, this became a national news story that used tweets from specific Twitter users, along with the angry responses those tweets received.
How 140 characters can cause 140 problems?
- 1. When you don’t think about the impact of what you say before you hit “tweet.”
- 2. When your tweets can be misconstrued as racist or spiteful against another person.
- 3. When you assume your so-called innocent tweet will go unnoticed by the masses.
I think we should all take some motherly advice: if you don’t have something good to say about someone or something- DON’T SAY IT! In the world of Twitter, if you don’t have anything good to say about someone or something- DON’T TWEET IT! 140 characters are not enough to say what you really mean anyway, so be very careful when you tweet. Twitter may satisfy our need for instant gratification, and immediate reactions, but sometimes 140 characters can cause 140 problems.
By the way, feel free to follow me on Twitter and tweet me, but watch what you say!