It seems like the same cycle is repeated every time a new social networking site crops up.
At first people are apprehensive, but curiosity gets the best of them and they eventually become addicts. Like wildfire it spreads, and soon enough everyone seems to have an account. When everyone and their brother starts using a social networking Web site, it opens up plenty of opportunities for problems.
As the new kid on the block, Twitter is still going through its growing pains, and the Web site is now at that point in the cycle when broad usage has turned into rampant misuse. Of course, security is and will always be a primary issue, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Twitter seems to be following in the footsteps of Facebook, and considering everyone including your best friend, your mom and your cat now has a Facebook, one would think Twitter users would have learned from the past mistakes of Facebook users. After all, if everyone has a Facebook, theoretically anyone can see those pictures you posted from the wild party. And, of course, employers have gotten in on the act too.
Now, unless you’ve been in a very deep cave that doesn’t have internet access, you’ve probably heard this spiel a million times. It’s been a few years now since every responsible, fun-hating adult started wagging their fingers and saying, “Is it really smart to put so much information about yourself on the Internet?”
And like any responsible organization, Facebook finally updated its privacy settings a few years ago after users encountered plenty of embarrassing situations. You can now control which of your friends are able to see those great pictures of you passed out on the bathroom floor with genitals scrawled on your face.
But the truth is, Big Brother isn’t watching anymore, he’s tweeting.
Twitter, too, has security options that can allow users to select who can see their tweets. Unfortunately, people just don’t seem to know about them — or even worse, they don’t care.
And so I present the #failoftheweek: On Monday, the head coach of Texas Tech’s football team, Mike Leach, announced that all players would be forbidden from having a Twitter account. This came after several players made disparaging tweets about the coach and the team itself one day after they lost to No. 12 Houston.
So, criticizing your head coach (or boss) for being late to a meeting isn’t OK, even if you do it on Twitter? Uh-oh, I better delete all the stuff I’ve said about @TheEasternEcho.
So here’s a general rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it in front of someone’s face, don’t say it in front of a much, much larger audience. Because – to make a witty reference to a classic movie — “If you Tweet it, They Will Come.”
Someone is going to find your comment, and they are gong to make a big deal out of it.
So should we all delete our Twitter accounts?
In my opinion, that would be the easy way out. There are plenty of great reasons to get a Twitter account, specifically if you just can’t figure out how to use RSS feeds or really, really like self-promotion.
But we can’t continue blaming every new social networking site for our blatant misuse of its technology. The answer isn’t to stop using the Internet, it’s to start using it more responsibly.
And parents? Don’t blame the Internet every time your kid is caught sending naked pictures of themselves to their friends. It’s not Twitter, it’s you.
As a society we need to become more responsible with what we’re putting on the Internet, otherwise when Twitter’s replacement comes along we’ll be going through the exact same ordeal. Only by that time teenagers will be able to send naked pictures of themselves directly to FOX News telepathically. Ooh, the future!
What we should be doing is using common sense and realizing this stuff has a way of getting out. If you are on a football team, chances are someone is going to search for that team on Twitter and find your remark; because, unlike Facebook, you don’t have to be someone’s friend in order to read their comments on Twitter.
Instead of deleting your Twitter account after these things get out of control, anyone who is worried about their tweets getting in the wrong hands should immediately change their security options, or, I don’t know, not write those things at all? What a novel idea!
If you don’t want the media to find those pictures you took of yourself in your underwear, then don’t take them or at the very least don’t put them online (hear that, @MileyCyrus?). If you do, every creepy guy in the world is going to know who you are, and it won’t be because they like the “Hannah Montana” movie.
There are plenty of responsible ways to use social networking sites, but until people learn to be careful about what they post about themselves online these problems are going to keep coming up with every new online fad that comes along.