Why Do People Behave Like Idiots on Twitter?

21st November, 2012 - 4 minutes read

twitter bird

Social media has rapidly, and significantly, changed the way we live and interact. On the whole its great; it makes keeping up with family/friends easier, it helps spread news and it allows even the smallest of voices to be heard.

However there are those who abuse it and unfortunately, this is the only time sites like Twitter and Facebook make the news. We never really hear of all the good they do;charity drives, awareness, pushing movements forward etc. Twitter, in particular, is a regular feature in the news because of what someone has said or what they have accused someone else of. In a time of media scrutiny and the Leveson enquiry, can social media walk away unscathed? After all, other than reach, what’s the difference between me falsely accusing someone of something or a journalist doing the same? Why should I get away with it and they (no longer) don’t?

Its all to easy to sit there in your bedroom, press the button and think nothing more of it. Young, naive, opinionated people probably get a rush from adding to the latest controversy,be it accusing Lord McAlpine of things he hasn’t done, or threatening X-Factor  karaoke king Christopher Maloney.

What people don’t realise is that in tweeting, they are making a statement to the rest of the world that is out there to read and see. You wouldn’t walk up to Maloney in the street and say to his face; “I want to kill you”, yet people think its OK to do it via Twitter, where millions of others can see it too.  The other thing that they don’t realise is that this impulse decision, that seemed like a good idea at the time, could land them in hot water. A teenager was recently arrested after posting abusive comments about Olympic diver Tom Daley on Twitter, and was charged with harassment. Another Twitter user was arrested and jailed for 2 months as a result of racist comments about footballer Fabrice Muamba.

The fact is that, sometimes the smallest voices don’t deserve to be heard, as they have nothing useful to say. If you are offering genuinely useful information and opinion, the chances are that you are paid to do so and you’re in the right position to do so. And sometimes those who should know better, don’t. A prime example is the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons Sally Bercow. After a long string of gaffes, such as  naming a teenager who ran away with her teacher and jumping on the McAlpine bandwagon, she was forced by her lawyer to close her Twitter account for good.

Next time you are Tweeting about something controversial or even topical, read it over and think; “what are the potential consequences of this Tweet, and are they worth it?” You can no longer hide behind Twitter, or any other social media profile for that matter. If you wouldn’t say it to someone face, or in front of other people, don’t say it on Twitter.