Oh My Tech!: 5 quick tips on how to stay out of Twitter danger

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: March 1, 2013 09:48AM
Updated: March 13, 2013 03:16PM
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Vince Horiuchi

The headlines that ran in real newspapers earlier this week sounded like a joke you would read in the satirical newspaper, The Onion.

“The Onion apologizes for calling 9-year-old actress the C-word.”

This time, The Onion, the popular online parody of a national newspaper, was the butt of the joke. Writers at the Chicago-based website got into heaps of trouble when they tweeted about the young star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” during Sunday night’s Academy awards.

“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a [C-word], right?” Instantly, the satirical website was roundly criticized for its use of what is arguably the most hateful word against a female.

An hour later, the tweet was deleted, and in a rare break of character, the newspaper apologized the next day in a posting from its chief executive officer.

Even the hilarious and usually smart Onion writers can fall victim to the consequences of tweeting or posting without thinking. It’s not hard to do, and there are scores of examples of tweeters who have gotten into trouble over it, from actor Alec Baldwin to a local KTVX Channel 4 employee who was forced to quit after tweeting about the “repressed sexual energy” of Mormons.

Here is a list of just a few tips that you should consider while tweeting or posting on a social network. They will help reduce the chances you will drown in guilt and regret later.

Think before you tweet • That’s obvious, right? But consider putting a safety measure in place — like stopping to think for five to ten seconds — before pressing the “send” button and beaming that tweet or post out into the virtual world forever. It’s easy to blurt out a message to everyone. It’s more difficult making sure it’s appropriate for everyone.

Be professional • If you have two separate Twitter or Facebook accounts, one for business and one personal, then be absolutely certain which one you’re posting from.

The KTVX employee was rumored to lose his or her job not because of what was tweeted but because it was sent out from KTVX’s official Twitter feed. Oops.

And when you’re posting or tweeting from your business account, keep it professional and positive.

Don’t get personal • As in try not to insult or hate on others in your tweets and posts. The Internet is flooded with negativity, but the worst comments are ones where people personally degrade others. The Onion attempted to make a joke about people fawning over the adorable 9-year-old Wallis and did so with a vicious insult. Name-calling, in other words, never works.

It’s permanent • Never think that whatever you tweet or post will simply disappear if you delete it later. It could easily be retweeted or reposted the instant you send it out, and end up on the other side of the world in minutes. In general, what goes up on the Internet, stays on the Internet.

Pictures • Be careful when tweeting or posting pictures if they are photos with friends in them. You may think it’s funny to tweet a picture of your buddy doubled over after a night of heavy drinking, but he may not, nor would his employer. If the picture is questionable, make sure to get permission from your friend before posting it.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.