Think Twice Before You Tweet: 5 Twitter Etiquette Don’ts

It’s one thing to tweet about what you’re having for lunch and it’s another thing entirely to diss a potential employer in 140 characters or less. Which is exactly what Connor Riley did when she tweeted: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Granted, this infamous ‘Cisco Fatty’ incident would be considered old news today (seeing as it happened three years ago) but you’ll be surprised at how some people still manage to misuse Twitter’s power and land themselves in hot water.

Now if you have opted to keep your tweets private, then you probably have less to worry about – more so if you’ve made sure that your followers are people you can trust. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to know more or to brush up on Twitter dos and don’ts. No matter how awesome you are in real life, lapses of judgment can happen to anyone and what you thought was a harmless burst of thought can become viral overnight—and not for the right reasons.

Rant but don’t be reckless.

There’s a big difference between ranting and being reckless. A British man found out the hard way that, just as it is a felony to say the word “bomb” in an airport or on an airplane, you can’t get away with threatening to blow up an airport even if it was meant as a joke. In 2010, upset because he couldn’t travel due to the airport being closed because of bad weather, finance supervisor Paul Chambers tweeted: “C**p! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your s**t together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” Chambers was arrested, subsequently tried, and was found guilty of sending menacing communication. While Chambers escaped jail time, he lost his job and was fined about £1,000 (or about $1,500). Chambers did win an appeal in 2012, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll prevail in an American court should you commit a similar offence.

Tweet peace, not threats.

Your favorite team lost because the referee missed a call or made the wrong call that decided the outcome of the game. Maybe you’re angry because your team’s overpaid star can’t do anything right, or upset that a player failed to make a crucial play. While it’s normal to feel upset and tweet about it, it’s definitely not okay to threaten someone via Twitter (Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez were among the recent victims of Twitter threats). Imagine the consequences if you lost it for a minute and used Twitter to threaten your boss or a co-worker.

Racism is never tolerated.

What’s worse than a racist? A racist who’s stupid enough to do something racist in plain view of the people whose race he is mocking – and actually tweeting about it. On August 2012, American surf fashion brand Hollister brought in four foreign models to take part in the opening of its first store in South Korea. One of the models posted a picture of himself while posing with his eyes squinted and lips open while making the peace sign.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, a colleague of the model commented: “Please look at how many Asians liked that picture… impressive” and the model replied: “Hahahaha they ruhhvvvv itttt!” – a mocking reference to how many Asians pronounce English words. Hollister promptly issued a Facebook apology, but the damage has been done.

There’s no excuse for insensitivity.

Twitter’s limited character count encourages you to be creative with your tweets. But be careful not to get too carried away; you can be smart without being insensitive – or downright dumb. In 2011, Kenneth Cole wanted to promote a new collection, but was careless in referencing the political unrest in Egypt: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KC”. Gap was also called out for being tacky when it tried to invite hurricane victims to do some shopping: “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of shopping today. How about you?”.

Trolling is never cool.

Trolls are among the lowest of the low among netizens. Because really, what’s the point of attacking athletes, celebrities, politicians, and regular Internet users for kicks and thrills? Everybody has a right to enjoy using social networks. Cyber bullying, like bullying in general, has no place in society. Don’t be a Twitter troll, and always tweet in good taste.

Most mis-tweets can be avoided if you always think before you type. A good practice is to consider tweeting as something that’s similar to writing a long email or sending a free fax. With the former, you don’t just fire away and type whatever comes into your head. You take some time to choose the right words so you can properly communicate what it is that you want to say. As for the latter, almost the same thing applies since you are essentially sending an email to a fax machine. The point here is that you don’t need to be a social media master to tweet responsibly and that, if you have this urge to flout the “rules,” you just need to remember that the internet has a long memory. Like we said, lapses in judgment can happen to anyone, and in Twitterverse, there may even be a longer list of people who may never let you off just because you weren’t wise enough to rethink what you just tweeted.