Matthew Good’s bass player got into some trouble after tweeting some disparaging remarks about Brockville, Ontario when the band played there last month. He only had over a thousand followers, but word got around quickly. The obligatory apology tweet came less than 48 hours later.
These kinds of blunders and the forced apologies that follow are not unique, but these days they’re not limited to hot-headed athletes and political sex scandals.
The term “social media” is very apt. Yes, it has a social component to it, but at the same time, you essentially become a form of media – you’re broadcasting – and when you broadcast, there’s a certain amount of responsibility you have to take.
To paraphrase Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, with a great number of followers comes great responsibility. Suddenly, you can’t just say whatever you want.
It’s very easy to give yourself a false sense of comfort on the internet. When we post thoughts and messages, many of us see it as the digital version of chatting with our friends at a pub, when really, it’s more like talking through a bullhorn on a busy street during rush hour.
You don’t need a great number of followers either. We’ve all seen things start small on the internet and quickly go viral. If you say something crazy or offensive enough, it will circulate quickly. It works like a rumour. The juicier the story, the further it travels.
Sometimes it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. We live at a time where text based communication is probably most prevalent. It’s very convenient for short messages, but easily and often misinterpreted when emotions become involved. With messages devoid of emotion, people often fill the emotional gaps with their own personality. As a result, a sentiment that could be quite benign to the person making it, can seem extremely contentious to the person receiving it.