Social media etiquette: Think before you tweet – please

05/25/2014 12:07 PM

05/25/2014 12:07 PM

“Horrible.” “OMG.” Two tweets, one big lesson.

It started after Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams last week. TV cameras were there to capture the moment when the first openly gay NFL player kissed his boyfriend in celebration.

That’s when Don Jones of the Dolphins tweeted “OMG.” And when his followers asked if he was referring to the kiss, he tweeted “Horrible.”

Everyone makes mistakes, but so many of the worst Twitter offenses are preventable. Why is it so hard for people to understand that when you share something on social media, you are sharing it with the world? Once it’s online, it stays there. There’s really no difference between tweeting it and saying it to someone’s face. But for some reason, people don’t see the connection.

Turns out, Jones was fined and excused from team activities. According to a Dolphins news release, Jones can’t come back until he “undergoes and completes educational training.” Jones deleted the tweets. He also apologized and then, for some reason, made his account private.

Interesting that two days after this happened, Twitter officially announced a mute button. While that will let you basically pretend the person doesn’t exist because you’ll never hear from them, it doesn’t fix the overall problem.

You should always strive to not be muted or blocked or unfollowed. It’s tough to please everyone, but it’s easy to stay professional. Here are a few tips for all social media platforms you might want to bookmark or pin to your cubicle wall.

•  Take the “grandma test”: I coined this phrase in 2010, and I still think it’s helpful. If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, you don’t share it on social media. Period, no exceptions.
• It’s not worth the risque: You know I can’t unsee that, right? Please watch the photos.
• Politically incorrect: Social media is not your political sounding board, because other people are paying attention. So calling your favorite politician every name in the book is not advised, and sharing your controversial viewpoints could backfire.
• Mind your hashtags: There seems to be this perception that putting a hashtag in front of any word makes it OK. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, it makes the word stand out even more.
• Honesty the only policy: Remember that time you plagiarized your book report in biology? Shouldn’t have done it then. Don’t do it now.
• One size fits all: You can’t and shouldn’t assume that no one is reading what you share. Whether you have four followers or 40,000, you never know when you’ll end up in the spotlight.
• The best social media tip in the world is … Be social. It’s not all about you, so make sure you vary your posts and participate in the conversation. You wouldn’t like it if you met someone for dinner and they never let you say anything.
• Take responsibility: If you do end up offending someone, be apologetic. Fix the problem, don’t make it worse.

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