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.