Jason Biggs, an actor on Orange Is The New Black, is just the latest victim of tweeting without thinking and suffering the consequences. Right after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, he tweeted: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?”
Even worse, he compounded the mistake several times. As the Twitter universe descended on him for his insensitivity, he first defended himself by playing the joke card: “Hey all you ‘too soon’ a********- it’s a f****** joke. You don’t have to think it’s funny, or even be on my twitter page at all.”
When that line of excuse failed, he turned to attacking the attackers: “Truly- you losers are literally trying to find s*** to get angry about. Channel your issues elsewhere.”
Finally, he realized the errors of his tweets and began a four-tweet apology: “Hey all- ok, so- I am deleting my previous tweets. People were offended, and that was not my intent. Sorry to those of you that were.”
Biggs isn’t the only person to misuse Twitter. Google “Tweets that got them fired” and you’ll find numerous hits. Infamous tweets include:
• Connor Riley, who was offered a job at Cisco and 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.” She didn’t get to start at Cisco
• Carly McKinney, was fired from her first year teaching job after tweeting racy photos of herself and commenting about marijuana use: “Watching a drug bust go down in the parking lot. It’s funny ‘cuz I have weed in my car in the staff parking lot.”
• Nicole Crowther, an extra on Glee, got herself fired for tweeting information about upcoming episodes of the popular television series.
Sexist, dumb, foolish, insensitive—the tweets are astonishing, and available to the world at large, not just friends. Tweets are just words, no facial expression, no tone of voice to help convey intention such as a sense of humor or sarcasm.
A few days later on July 21, Biggs appeared on HuffPost Live to do damage control. His advice to himself was to reconsider how he uses Twitter: “You just need to think about what you put out there. Because people can get hurt and that’s what happened, that’s what I did— I hurt some people. And that’s not my intent, that’s never my intent, so yeah, moving forward I need to not be stupid.”
A tweet is only 140 characters. But be careful. There’s a dark side to Twitter. It’s a public document with worldwide reach. Inevitably, the one time you tweet something you want to share with just a few people or you think is just a joke is the time it will be shared with many and will boomerang back on you with unexpected consequences.