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What Can We Learn From Tweet Storms and Grownup Bullying?

Five ways you can be a better digital role model.

Source: Pexel

Why do we post things that we know could get us in trouble? Are we not thinking it through in the heat of the moment, or do we think no one is paying attention? Are we simply naive, thinking that what we say is only among friends? Or are we the opposite, craving the approval of all those likes or retweets? As we will see, so many times, these messes are entirely of our own making.

Your online behavior should be the best reflection of who you are offline, but so many of us don’t live up to that ideal.

A Tweet Can Get You Fired

With 70 percent of employers screening your social media behavior — and 54 percent of applicants being eliminated before they're even interviewed due to their content and behavior — an inappropriate tweet can cost you your next job.

Just having a job doesn't make you safe: the majority of workplaces have social media policies in place, over half of employers will monitor your social streams and reprimand or fire workers for their online behavior and content. Roseanne found this out firsthand.

Businesses and colleges today view their employees and students as an extension of their brand. The way we behave online is a reflection of who we are and what we represent offline. The ABC Network, as well as Roseanne's talent agency ICM, sent a strong message — they have zero tolerance for racist and cruel behavior.

Post Regrets

Roseanne is far from the first person to lose her job after using her keypad irresponsibly — and then not fully take accountability. It was only a short time ago that Dani Mathers claims she accidentally published a woman undressed in a locker room on Snapchat with her mean statement of "If I can't unsee this then you can't either." She said it was meant to only be seen by her friend, however she wasn't familiar with Snapchat and it went public.

In Jacksonville Florida, at a Naval Hospital, several employees were relieved from their jobs after posting pictures of newborn babies with cruel comments referring to them as 'mini Satans'.

You don't have to be a celebrity to make racist remarks and lose your job. Your online behavior is never off the clock, especially when social media policies are in place. One teacher's aide in Georgia quickly learned this lesson after referring to former first lady Michelle Obama as a gorilla.

It was only a day after the Roseanne tweet-storm when Samantha Bee was called out for an unacceptable and shocking word that she used in reference to Ivanka Trump. Like Roseanne, Samantha Bee is a comedian; however, when clever crosses over to cruel, there needed to be ramifications. Some advertisers for her show, Full Frontal, agreed — and are pulling their airtime.

Why Are People So Mean?

Have we all lost our sense of empathy towards humanity? Maybe it's the anonymity of the Internet or the lack or gatekeepers or consequences.

Taken altogether, this phenomenon is known as the online disinhibition effect, the notion that people behave far differently online than they would in reality. John Suler, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Rider University who was the first to formally tackle this issue in a 2004 research paper, explains that the lack of a physical link between the attacker and the victim makes it easier to say things one wouldn’t in person.

When this disinhibition turns toxic, or toward attacking others, it could be for several reasons: the online poster may not know exactly who the victims are or see them as a real people, there are few consequences for this nasty behavior, and there is always the ability to hop off the discussion at any time.We live in an age when people feel frustrated and angry,” Suler observed in an interview.The online disinhibition effect causes people to act out that frustration and anger.”

5 Ways to Be a Better Digital Role Model

1. Rethink how you share online:

  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it appropriate?
  • Will it hurt or humiliate someone?

2. Having a bad day? It's okay to take a digital detox. Lead by example for the next generation. There are no do-overs online.

3. Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent Internet.

4. Report, flag, and talk about online abuse. Be an upstander.

5. Never perpetuate hate or cruelty by forwarding, liking, or retweeting mean content.

We're living in an era where our every oops moment can potentially define our life. Isn't it time we become more mindful of our digital behavior and realize what comes out of our fingers is equal to what comes out of our mouths?


Scheff, Sue: Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017), interview with Dr. John Suler

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