Viewpoint 3/5: Treacherous land of Twitter

Social media has overtaken many aspects of American culture, and it’s not always a bad thing. Social media like Facebook and Twitter encourage communication and can help reunite old friends. However, Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools that should be handled carefully.

A single tweet can have the power to end a relationship or a career. Or, at the very least, a tweet can cause a person unbelievable embarrassment. Let’s take a look at some of the worst tweets ever sent into cyberspace.

Irresponsible tweeting has stirred up attention on a local stage. In September 2010, an employee for KTVX (ABC 4) meant to post a tweet on his or her own Twitter account. Unbeknownst to them, they were actually tweeting on ABC 4’s official Twitter account.

No harm, no foul, right? Not exactly.

The tweet read, “I’m downtown eating. Surrounded by Mormons and repressed sexual energy.”

Ouch.

The tweet was only on the feed for a few minutes, but that was all it took. The unidentified employee was subsequently fired.

In another major Twitter gaffe, actor Rob Lowe thought he had inside information about the future of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning’s career. Lowe tweeted that he was hearing from his “sources” that Manning was retiring. Again, it was seemingly harmless. In fact, Lowe said he was sad to hear the news.

One problem: Manning wasn’t retiring.

Within minutes, Lowe’s tweet was the subject of blog posts, sports radio shows and sports news television broadcasts. “Rob Lowe,” “Peyton Manning” and “#RobLoweIsReporting” were all trending on Twitter.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to give Charlie Sheen a call on his personal cell phone? Well, if you were browsing Twitter at just the right moment, you might have been able to find out.

Sheen, intending to send a private message to Justin Bieber, inadvertently tweeted his cell phone number for the whole world to see. Although the number was quickly disconnected, we can’t help but wonder which lucky fans actually got the Adonis descendant on the line.

An even better question could be: what would Sheen and Bieber have to talk about?

And finally, in what is likely the biggest meltdown in Twitter history, former New York congressman Anthony Weiner intended to send a . . . ahem . . . compromising picture of himself to a woman in a private message. Instead, he posted the photo as a public tweet.

Weiner tried to cover his tracks. He tried to clean up the mess and blame the photo on outside sources, but the Twitter-sphere is an unrelenting beast.

What followed was the destruction of his political career, and he eventually resigned from office.

These stories offer countless lessons when it comes to social media use. Like we said, they can be dangerous playgrounds.

The best Twitter advice we can offer is to compare using Twitter to driving a car. If anything about your mindset, emotions or awareness would impair your ability to safely drive from one place to another, you should probably log off and wait until it’s safe to explore the land of 140 characters.

If you’re distracted, don’t tweet. If you’re tired, don’t tweet. If you’re unsure of your ability to safely maneuver the roads, don’t tweet. If you’re ignorant of the rules or nuances of Twitter, don’t tweet. If you’re inebriated in any way, don’t tweet.

Twitter requires your complete attention, and the details are unbelievably important.

We think Twitter is a great creation that has done some incredible things since it was introduced. As with all dangerous things, though, handle with care.