I’m sure you’ve heard the news regarding Roseanne Barr, her tweet, and subsequent show cancellation.1 I’d like to talk about that for a few minutes. If you’re reading this hoping for a left or right-leaning argument for or against Roseanne Barr, you’re in the wrong place.
Social media platforms have become a game-changer in many ways. People are able to stay in touch with distant family members and friends, share pictures, or have discussions with people that they know. The list goes on and on of what can be done.
One part that people seem to be forgetting, or maybe just overlooking, is just how easy this all is. That’s great for Facebook, Twitter, and others, but is it good for the user? Is it really a good idea to just post or tweet anything and everything that pops into your head? Is it a good idea to say every thought out loud? Probably not, but that’s what social media is for better or worse. The filter has been removed. You have a thought, you grab your phone and type it out, you hit Send and that’s that. But there are consequences for what you say and do.
This week, Roseanne Barr learned this lesson the hard way. She learned that when you work for a multinational media conglomerate (Disney) they have the ability to fire you for things you say and do. This isn’t a free speech debate, it’s between an employee and their employer. I won’t pretend to be a lawyer or know anything at all about contract law but I can bet that she signed something along the way that made this pretty clear. The company I work for has a similar policy. I’m not going to get into whether or not she was joking or on Ambien or if she really meant it. That doesn’t matter. What matters is she said something, her employer acted, and she’s dealing with the consequences of that.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that social media never existed. Let’s think back to the days before Facebook and Twitter. How did you non-verbally express your thoughts, ideas, jokes, whatever? You wrote them in a letter, a journal, or even a blog. Think about the typical workflow of writing in those things. The only one where most people could be their true selves and say exactly what’s on their mind without fear of repercussion was probably the personal journal. The other two - the letter and the blog - were going to be read by other people and therefore you would want to think things through a bit more and be more deliberate in what you were saying. I’d wager most handwritten letters or blog posts even had drafts before the final product was sent or published. I’d also wager that not many tweets are drafted then edited or rewritten. They’re bite-sized for a reason. Think. Type. Send. Done. That’s probably not going to garner the most thought-out message, but it’s the preferred way of communicating for millions of people.
I’m not saying everyone needs to leave Facebook or Twitter and start blogging. What I am saying, though, is that I hope people realize that they are putting text out there that could be at times not very well thought out. Someone could become incensed at a news report and tweet something they really don’t mean.2 At that point it’s no longer an angry person yelling at their TV from the couch, they’re yelling at the world now and everyone hears it. That’s a much different dynamic that can impact their relationship with others and even cost them their job.
Please, just think about what you’re posting before you hit Send.
Photo Credit: Marten Bjork
1 It’s become increasingly hard to find a headline that doesn’t lean one way or another. Variety seemed to be the most straightforward take.
2 This isn’t about Roseanne in particular, it’s just something I see on Twitter and Facebook all too often.