My grandparents got their first television in the 1960’s, a beast of a thing, more wood than screen, and used mostly as a doily covered counter on which framed family pictures sat. They used it so infrequently that they didn’t buy a new television set until the mid 1980’s (which they sat on top of the old wood set). Even though the new television came with a remote, my grandmother never used it, preferring instead to pull her arthritis ridden body out of her armchair, and with the help of a walker shuffle her feet across the room to change the channel, and out of breath return to her chair. When I was in the second or third grade I asked why she wouldn’t use the remote to which she responded, “My aim isn’t so good”. This baffled me, until I realized she had no idea how a remote control worked and was worried you could damage something in the room if you “shot” it with the remote. I tried to explain it to her, and she dismissed me with a wave of her hand, saying, “You have got to be careful when you push buttons”.

I’ve been thinking about my grandmother’s advice to be careful when you push buttons over the past week as more and more tweeters feel the repercussions of recklessly hitting the send button after thoughtlessly drafting some questionable tweets about the Olympics.

Most in need of my grandmother’s advice were Paraskevi Papachristou and Michel Morganella, both sent home after tweeting comments that were easily interpreted as racists by most who read them. Even though Papachristou tweeted an apology, the damage was done; her original tweet had been re-tweeted and re-tweeted and re-tweeted, while her apology went unnoticed. An act that took 10 seconds to complete erased years of preparing, and cost both of these athletes a chance to live their dream.

Then there was the arrest of soccer player Daniel Thomas who is suspected of having sent British diver Tom Daley a homophobic and threatening tweet. This came on the heels of spectators threatening to drown Daley via Twitter after he failed to medal, and one spectator tweeting that Daley had disappointed he dead father.

All of this makes British cycling star Bradley Wiggins’ bad decision to tweet photos while on a gold medal induced “blind drunk” bender seem benign. It of course gives the host country a bit of a black eye, when one of their biggest sports heroes, lets everyone in on the fact the he got drunk at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Most interestingly is the strange case of Guy Adams, a British journalist suspended from Twitter for the way in which he expressed his displeasure over NBC’s handling of the games. So many people have become upset by NBC’s strategy of showing events up to nine hours after they happen (since results are streaming out in real time) that the #NBCFail is one of the most used hashtags over the past week. Twitter claims that they suspended the journalist in response to a complaint by NBC over the fact that Adams had tweeted the email address of an NBC executive, and that publishing details like that are against their policy. However, none of that is true. Twitter has no such content policy as are not legally responsible for any content published on their site, and NBC didn’t complain until Twitter suggested they do. It seems more likely that twitters reaction to Adams was due to the strategic partnership that NBC and Twitter have formed during the Olympics.

It’s interesting to note that Twitters reaction to the racists and threatening tweets was to say we aren’t responsible and it is an issue of free speech, but when a corporate partner was targeted they took immediate action. While I think Adams should have also shown better decision making before hitting the send button, I am concerned that Twitter, a service that claims to give everyone a voice, is already monitor tweets and making decisions based on their own best interests.

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3 Responses to #Fail

  1. Cathryn Lottier says:

    You mention some great points in your blog post this week. I have found it incredibly interesting in the past few years of Twitter’s increasing popularity how celebrities (and athletes) so easily have the opportunity to make or break their image. I remember when Twitter first became mainstream, and Ashton Kutcher was promoting the idea of being able to instantly communicate with his fans and tag teaming communication with his wife, Demi. Where is Ashton now? Well, he is off “privately” gallivanting with that chick he worked with on That 70’s Show. He is no longer an active member of Twitter since he supposedly had a representative tweeting for him, which resulted in an epic tweet fail re: Paterno incident (so much for having all that great communication with your fans). And his partner in Twitter crime, Demi Moore? Well, let’s just say that her Twitter name is no longer MrsKutcher.

    Fast forward to the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, athletes such as Paraskevi Papachristou and Michel Morganella continue to follow in the footsteps of epic Twitter fails. But, as you mentioned in your post, instead of costing them a few fans, it ended their shot at a chance of lifetime (and probably what they had been dedicated to achieving their whole lives).

    Twitter and the ability to communicate instantly with the masses is both a blessing and a curse. Before hitting that post button, people must remember that whatever they say goes out officially into the universe. As Thumper’s mom in Bambi so aptly put it, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…don’t say anything at all.”

  2. msamuels says:

    I absolutely love this post and your analogy of your grandmother. So poetic. Though I thought I had learned my lesson with email back in the early 90s, I wasn’t so astute with texting and send a response I thought was for one person to a whole group. It was less than complimentary and I felt like an idiot.

    I’ve never seen so much volleyball in my life (even though I’ve had no time to watch really). Please, let it end.

    I would assume there is a certain code of ethics for Olympic athletes, and racist remarks would violate them, but if that’s not the case for Papachristou then that’s an issue. As repulsive as the Chick-fil-A CEO’s comments were about gay marriage, I believe he had the right to make them, but we also have a right to boycott.

    I feel like we’re back to our earlier discussion about Pepsi. It’s a question of where you draw the line.


  3. Nkemdilim Obiora says:

    I was watching an episode of News Week earlier today and one of the lead characters inadvertently sent an email to her whole team when it was meant for one person. As a response to the content of the email, it was immediately forwarded to the whole corporation. Sometimes we do things by accident and sometimes its a lack of thought that makes for a regretful situation. I find that most of these mistakes could have been avoided if we went back to how things used to be when we approached people in person. So much of our communication has become impersonal and the quick fix has become a way of life.

    I really loved all of your examples and it reminds me of how what you do today can truly affect how you turn out tomorrow.