Thursday, September 04, 2008

Twitter Can Kill

I have found the service Twitter to be quite entertaining both as a way to keep up with friends and casual acquaintances and as a way to gage the real time pulse and reaction to news events, product happenings and even the most recent Democratic and Republican convention coverage. The veracity with which some people comment surprises even me.

Last night I was having a side chat with a contact that I have made out on in the valley. We were enjoying direct messaging one another about the various comments that were being posted and carrying on our own internal commentary about Rudy Guiliani and Sarah Palin's speeches. As we both watched comment after comment get posted on Twitter, many of which were my veiled attempt to add some humor to the mix, one particular person began to stand out for the viciousness of their stance. This person was incredibly over the top about the speakers and very opinionated about those who might support them. In fact at one point, this person even began calling the people who support the Republican Party names that I refuse to reprint here.

Now to be fair, Twitter has no rules or regulations about making such comments, or Twits as I like to call them. People get fired up....especially when they talk politics. One of the things I enjoy about this entire Web 2.0 era is the ability to get real time points of view and impassioned impressions of things that are happening out there in the world. With instant broadcasting capability there are going to be points of view I agree with and others I won't - I get that.

What I don't get is the people that jeopardize their own reputation and standing by throwing big rocks in a society that is truly full of glass windows. With instant everything comes one's instant ability to forever damage themselves and in many cases the companies they either work for or run. That to me is a problem.

Case and point. My friend from the valley had made this incredible connection with a designer over Twitter. After weeks of discussion about a project he is needing help on he decided to greenlight big dollars and somewhat open ended creative license for this designer to develop this idea as they saw fit. He was stoked. They were stoked. Web 2.0 had officially created the bridge of connection for these two bright people to work together on what appears to be a fairly substantial and lucrative financial project.

That all came to an apparent crashing and fiery halt last night.

The designer, whom my friend follows on Twitter, became incredibly offended by the hatred and vile nature of this person's posts. As each new Twit was entered it felt like you were watching a trainwreck happening right before your very eyes. My friend's comments to me were both sad and angry. A relationship that had taken weeks to develop was suddenly gone in a matter of minutes. All because this person decided to make some outlandish comments that revealed a disturbing glimpse into their character, values and ultimately who they are as a person.

Though I am quite certain that many of the comments were aimed at impressing this person's friends, I doubt seriously they thought about the consequences of their actions and the impact it might make to the clients and potential clients they may also have out there watching. In a Web 2.0 world those are risks that you simply can't afford to take. Discretion is the better part of valour and boy was it never more apparent to me than last night.

I have no idea if my friend will tell this person exactly why they are pulling the project. If he reads this I hope he will seriously consider doing it - we all need to know when we screw up. It's how we learn and grow as people. Regardless of whether he does or not, he did teach me something last night. He reinforced a lesson that I have espoused right here in this BLOG many times.....

In this world, you are always on stage and impressions are everywhere. Tread carefully!!!

Ripple On!!!


terri said...

I've seen evidence of such happenings on twitter too. I believe we're all entitled to our opinions and beliefs and just because someone else might not agree with us, doesn't make them bad or stupid. However, one of my contacts on twitter made a pretty bold announcement there that anyone who supported a particular candindate was an (effing) idiot. That's a pretty bold statement and I'd venture to guess he'd lose a lot of his contacts if they'd all seen the remark. You're right. Someone is always watching. Act responsibly!

Thom Singer said...


I agree with you. As one who probably goes "over the line" on twitter and my blog sometimes (although I try never to be disrespectful of people with other views), I know it is easy to get caught up in the momentum of the twitter stream.

It can be fun, and a chance to be heard by people. Having a platform to state your opinions can be very seductive.

But online and face-to-face relationships should survive most things that are said in a public forum if said in a positive way. It is when people go hateful that they get in trouble (to Terri's point.... if you call those who disagree with your political views and "effing" idiots, you will burn bridges. Nobody wants to be hurt in such an insulting manner).

People who are passionate can make strong and controversial statements and survive if they are respectful of those with other opinions.

The problem we have in the online social media world is that those who "FLAME" with over the top comments are often heroes, which causes others to push the envelope in search of that level.

However, in the end, online or in-person relationships are the same thing. Nobody would invite insulting and mean-spirited people into their home for dinner.... and they will not embrace them in the digital world either. But ettiquette seems to be forgotten by many.

Add in the passionate feelings of political views and you have a powder keg, if not careful.

Steve, this is a great topic, and one which people need to think about.


The Inside Track said...

Well said. Our comments leave trails. I have been cognizant of the reputation danger of involving myself in recent political conversations. I will admit that Twitter has a way of sucking me in sometimes, and on occasion feelings get the best of all of us.

What often holds me back is the voice inside my head saying "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all." That adage applies in Web 2.0 too.

Chris said...

Inside Track, weren't we just having this discussion on Twitter? It is very important to keep in mind. I am not shy about my (liberal) political leanings, but I do try to be respectful of others.

I had a client with a "pray the vote" sign on the front door to her office and pictures of GWBush in the office. This told me not to have political discussions with her, but it didn't mean we couldn't do business.

I know my politics are very different than both RippleOn and InsideTrack, but they're both great guys otherwise.

As for, Thom and his extreme centrism, I just don't're so far to the center, that I just don't know what we could possibly have in common ;-)


Vicki Flaugher said...

I too am pretty amazed at the vehemently stated views. Opinions are good, respect and courtesy is better. With all the words in the English language, it's easy enough to make a point without resorting to name calling.

A few weeks ago I started a "30 days of no name calling", mentally or otherwise. It's been wonderful and not as hard as I thought it would be. Even during this political season, making the decision that attacking was not what I would do was enough to stop the impulse.

I think both the joy and the pain of the internet is full and intimate personal disclosure to the public. Although I know not everyone will pick up and enjoy my personal unique vibe, at least I think they can admit that it isn't because I act rudely.

Great post- great point. I unfollow the people who go over the line...or twitterfade them until they calm down. I just don't have the desire to see it in my face, no matter how great they are in general. Life is too short to not hang with the joyful group, IMO.

Together, we are stronger.
Vicki Flaugher, the original SmartWoman

Sue said...

The only part of politics I dislike is the mudslinging. My quote on Twitter recently:

"Everybody, please, SHUT UP. I mean that lovingly. I love you all dearly! I just want my old twitter back... no more politics! ;-)"

That about sums up what I feel.

Andrew Weaver said...

Excellent points! I have been thinking about this all week because of an incident at work involving a fellow co-worker, so this was right up my alley.

When we forget that we're on a stage (albeit on-line) we have a tendency to say and do things we would never do in public. The Internet is a very public place, and should be treated as if your boss or grandma is in the audience. If we would always think like that, we'd probably be a little more careful.

Again - excellent post on this issue. said...

excellent point you make here! here here!


Anonymous said...


This is why I read your BLOG. Your insight and wisdom is something business people need to subscribe to. You always make the greatest points and have great lessons to share.

This one is one of the great ones!

I use Twitter and have been guilty of this very same thing. I hadn't ever made the connection until now. Thank you my friend. Excellent, excellent point!

Ripple On As You Were....