Thursday, 6 December 2012

Three Extremely Good Reasons Not To Drink And Tweet

If I were an engineer, I would work on developing a breathalyzer system for laptops and handheld devices that would have the function of disabling a user's social media platforms when said user has had a few too many. I hardly need explain why this would be a good idea. In spite of vast volume of blog content devoted to warning people to think their posts through before they clicking on the 'Send' button, people continue to embarrass themselves online - sometimes with dire repercussions to their careers and relationships. And while there are no statistics to back this up, it's probably a safe bet that alcohol is a major contributing factor in most of these instances.

As technology has progressed, the scope for disastrous alcohol-fuelled fallout has steadily increased. In the 1990s we drunk-dialled our exes and adversaries, typically with embarrassing results, but such embarrassment was generally containable. A decade on drunk-dialling progressed to drunk-texting, upping the potential for widespread social fallout, which in turn led to drunk social media mishaps, the likes of which have destroyed careers, landed people in jail and created all manner of reputational damage for heretofore respected organizations.

It's probably safe to say that all social media tools should be made off-limits while intoxicated. Nevertheless, some are clearly more hazardous than others. A drunk edit to your LinkedIn profile might be a source of embarrassment the next day, but unless your boss (or prospective employer) happens to be looking at your profile at that moment, it probably won't do any real lasting damage. As for Facebook, we've all seen the telltale signs of drunk posts which, while highly embarrassing, probably won't get you fired unless you're actually mouthing off your boss or posting photos of yourself committing a criminal act.

Twitter, on the other hand, is the one you should stay well away from while under the influence of alcohol, for the following three reasons:

1) You're probably going to embarrass yourself.

Twitter gives you a grand total of 140 characters with which to make a statement. So unless you're a very thoughtful and concise drunk, you're probably going to make a pig's breakfast of that character count. You're also far more likely to do things you're regret later, like try to get celebrities to notice you or start ranting on issues on which you're less than fully informed. So unless you want that tweet to Adam Levine begging him to read your CD review or that garbled squawk about Alberta Health Services showing up on your feed, you should probably turn off the Twitter once the third shooter tray homes into view. And unlike on Facebook, it's not just your friends who can see that.

2) You can't really delete a tweet.

This is probably the single most important thing to realize about Twitter. Sure you can delete it from your page, but once it's out there, it's out there. And once it's out there, you also can't control a) who reads it, and b) who retweets it. And if it's really egregious, you can bet you're going to get some retweets out of that.

3) You run the risk of tweeting from the wrong account.

As communications advisor for Edmonton International Airport, I co-manage two different Twitter accounts - the regular @FlyEIA account and the @FlyEIACargo account dedicated to the airport's air cargo operations. In addition, I of course have my own personal Twitter account. And like many professional communicators, I have multiple account logins pre-loaded on my Smartphone for easy access. Suffice it to say, when it comes to my personal Twitter use, I always first make sure that I'm logged into my own account rather than one of the airport accounts, as not doing so could easily have embarrassing results.

Screw-ups of this sort have indeed happened before. One of the most appalling 'twuck-ups' in history occurred in February of last year when a communications staffer from the American Red Cross inadvertently sent a drunk tweet through his or her work Twitter account (see above image). In this particular case, the employee in question made the mistake of using HootSuite, which presumably was not linked to the account that this person had intended on using. To their credit, the Red Cross' response to the tweet was inspired and totally charming.

No word on what happened to the Red Cross staffer responsible for the twuck-up in question. One can only assume he or she received at the very least a stern talking to. There's also no evidence that the Dogfish Head Brewery, a popular craft brewery in Milton, Delaware, tried to milk this Red Cross fiasco for its own benefit. They probably didn't have to; an accidental plug from the world's largest international humanitarian organization isn't the sort of thing a small local brewhouse gets every day.

1 comment:

  1. A variation on this, perhaps?