Let’s say your great Aunt suddenly died (climbing accident in the Bavarian Alps) and left you her company. Nothing much, just MPO Thumbtacks (I made this up, don’t go out and buy stock shares) that is currently the world’s leading supplier of thumbtacks and thumbtack related products — with a yearly revenue stream of over $1 billion. What is the next move for you?
Is it going on Twitter and being an idiot? Because that is the hot choice for highly paid CEOs at the moment. A few weeks ago, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Elon Musk tweeted that he was taking Tesla private, and then he didn’t. This led to a lawsuit, a fine of $20 million and an eventual demotion from his position at Tesla (he remains CEO, but is no longer a chairman).
A few months before that, Musk rage-tweeted at one of the divers who helped rescue members of the trapped Thai youth Football Club, referring to him as a “pedo”. This led to more potential fines from a resulting lawsuit, which is ongoing.
A bit lower on the income ladder is Lyne Redden, a Texas Superintendent for Onalaska County, who angrily tweeted that the NFL’s Houston Texans made a mistake selecting Deshaun Watson as their quarterback, and that you “can’t count on a black quarterback”. He later resigned.
These are only the two most recent and notable instances of prominent people using Twitter irresponsibly. This is a common theme now, and will only become more prevalent with the current president normalizing angry 3 a.m. Twitter tirades.
Social media gives older generations the gift of a platform that reaches more than the three people they might have reached before the digital age. Don’t let their 39 followers fool you; if the tweet is asinine, offensive or just bizarre enough, it will go viral, and we will all see it.
Alright, back to your company. MPO Thumbtacks has just been acquired by another company for $95 million (it was a rough year for thumbtacks). The transaction is soured, however, by a recently unearthed tweet of yours that dates back to 2011. It reads, “I was leaving Outback Steakhouse and I totally ran over some1s cat lol oops.” This causes a media uproar, and your stock takes a hit. You are stuck with your failing company, watching its returns diminish every quarter until you go broke and have to work at Office Depot.
Is that justifiable? The tweet in question had many hallmarks of a textbook Bad Tweet™. It was inflammatory, made light of a tragic (for the cat’s owners, possibly) situation and indicative of horrible taste in food. But should that have been dug up and trotted out, all in a desperate bid for content and clicks?
Life is ugly and everyone has unintelligent or bigoted thoughts, but most are just wise enough to keep them to themselves. Those with a lack of filter, self awareness or an antagonistic streak do not uphold those norms and find themselves serving harsh financial and social consequences for their Twitter presence.
These penalties the unwise tweeters have incurred upon themselves should serve as warnings to our generation. We can be media savvy, funny and nihilistic without revealing every thought that should be kept to ourselves.