Friday, 30 July 2010

How to Avoid Twitter Embarrassment

Twitter is a social phenomenon. Millions of people use it daily, many constantly use it through the day - tweeting lots of times in an hour, in a minute and so on. Regardless of whether it has already reached its peak and users are jumping ship to micro-blogging with a bit more meat (Tumblr, Posterious, Soup etc.) or if it will continue to be a leading tool for social communication, it is not without its controversy and troubles.

A recent spat between nutritionist Gillian McKeith and good science advocate Ben Goldacre has made a few headlines in the UK. This reminded me of many other occasions where celebrities have got into some both because of throwaway tweets. It's important to remember that twitter is public. Unless you make your account private, anyone can see it. Not just your followers, not just other Twitter users but everyone with access to the Internet will be able to read it. Likewise, deleting your tweet might not also mean it's permenantly deleted. The web has a canny nack for caching and archiving itself.

There are a few things to keep in mind though when tweeting. Remember that unlike web forums or message boards, twitter can be linked back to you as a person. It is not so easy to be anonymous on Twitter. Thus, don't say something that you wouldn't be comfortable saying in public and if it's about someone/something in particular, don't say it if you would not say it to them in person. Even though you might not think they'll read it, they just might and then what will you do? There are many examples of people getting fired from jobs for posting things online that they shouldn't or professional relationships fall apart over things one party has said on Twitter.

Twitter, above all else, is a communication tool. Thus, someone is bound to read your tweet at one point or another so you must always be careful about what you say or post. Not just disparaging things, but don't post things that are too private. This cannot be stressed enough! I know for a lot of people, the Internet has become so ubiquitous that it is a part of everyday life and it is hard to see where online communication differs from offline communication. And in some respects I agree. In some respects online communication has many positives over offline communication but there are some negatives. Online communication is often with people you don't know well. Things you confide in them might not remain confidential.

Similarly, you have to be sure that the person you are talking to is actually the person you want to talk to. Many celebrities and famous people have opened Twitter accounts, many others have not. The person who you are following and think is your favorite singer or actor, might just actually be Average Joe from up the road. They don't even have to be famous, people may choose to fabricate an online persona or embellish the truth a little. Always be sure you trust the person 100% before revealing anything that you may regret telling in the future.

As much as Twitter is, it's always important to remember it is not a private IM conversation, it is very public and people just might bring you up on your tweets!

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