2.18.2011

Thoughts About the Immediacy of New Media

Watch your step (and your words).
My mother, ever the instigator of thoughts, emailed me Nir Rosen's response on Salon to the demise of his career for being thoughtless in his Twitter comments about the violent sexual assault on Lara Logan in Egypt. This is my response.

While I think the new social media makes it easier to be a thoughtless jerk, I don't think it changes people from being kind, considerate people to being thoughtless jerks.

With every revolution in communication there is a period when that medium's newness overrides people's need to think before they hit send or post. And, in the process of that new media becoming a mainstream communications medium, cautionary tales of missteps, stumbles, falls and outright career implosions will be the result.


Until society catches up with this latest surge in immediate broadcasting, until people stop and think before posting hateful, knee-jerk reactions, especially those with larger audiences, stories like this will continue to happen.

During the NFL playoffs, Jay Cutler, a quarterback for the Bears, tore one of the ligaments in his knee and was unable to return to the field. He was eviscerated (what a word!) on Twitter by fans which wasn't unusual really. The unusual thing is that current and former players also tore him apart without even bothering to find out that he'd suffered serious damage to his knee and the doctors, not Jay Cutler, decided that he was no longer fit to play. And all of this happened during the game, there was no period in which he was given a chance to defend himself. It was ugly and wrong.

These examples will not be the last or probably even the most egregious. Like most things, the immediacy of Twitter is one of its greatest strengths and, simultaneously, one of its most glaring weaknesses.

I have posted things on Twitter and then almost immediately realized that I did not want that out there and deleted them. They are semi-erased but there are computers and servers somewhere logging everything, recording every rudeness, every ugly knee-jerk reaction. It can be scary when you stop to think about it which more people should do from time to time.

The internet never blinks and never sleeps and there is always someone or something watching. Something to keep in mind as you gleefully tap out hateful missives with just a spoonful of facts in a big bowl full of opinions to base them on.
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