What do Jay Cutler and Ted Williams have in common? The life changing, “WTF” effect of Twitter.
January 31, 2011
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
Listening to sports radio the other day, one of the commentators noted how social media played an alarming role in the national bashing of Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler after he left the game in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers. As everyone knows, NFL players from around the league tweeted about his departure –in real time- creating a firestorm that still blazes. Among other things, he was called a “wussie” and warned not to shower at the same time as his fellow teammates. Ouch.
The radio analyst held Twitter and the Tweeters in contempt. Ordinarily, such nasty opinions would never have been voiced until well after the game and only if a journalist would have asked for them. That seems unlikely as the offending players were not involved in the game and, in fact, were out of the tournament.
I, myself, had tweeted that the Twitter component was at least as fascinating as the removal of Jay Cutler from the game. Indeed, this was the first time in history real athletes offered real opinions in real time on real events. Really!
Whether Twitter should be held in contempt is debatable but the unprecedented circumstances do point out a contemptible side of social media, one that is only now coming to the fore. Twitter eliminates ‘time’ from the equation. Social media removes the common sense practice of waiting before one speaks. We see the results everyday in the comments portion below the millions of stories we read online, if not in the stories themselves.
Communications used to involve strategy. Not anymore. While I salute the disintegration of public relations and all its spin, I lament the proliferation of gossip, vitriol and just plain stupidity.
All three were on display during the coronation and hasty decimation of the Internet sensation, Ted “Golden Voice” Williams. A viral video and a ba-zillion Twitter supporters (I being one of them) made the hobo a media sensation, landing him voiceover gigs on national television and more. Days later he was arrested in a hotel room fight with a family member, owned up to lying about his sobriety, entered rehab and disappeared, presumably back into the streets where he was found. To say that social media had nothing to do with this would be short sighted…and dangerous.
Yes, You Tube and Twitter can make people famous but it can and does do the opposite as well. Reputations can be unfairly tarnished. Lives ruined. Jay Cutler and Ted Williams are the two latest big examples; they did not deserve the attention that they got and would not have gotten it without social media. And, more frightening really, what of all the average people made less average whether they like it or not? As I write, anonymous bullies are terrorizing colleagues, classmates and family members via social media and there is nothing anyone can do about it other than get used to it.
I’m a blogger. I get my news from other bloggers. I use countless social media platforms to communicate. Up until very recently I helped create them for clients. I adore Twitter and Facebook. This truly is the new frontier, for marketers, for all of us. But there are rattlesnakes out there… and worse. Be mindful.