Twitter tantrums

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Anger and aggression in our socialsphere

Recently, I was interviewed by a reporter from one of our local television stations. He was seeking a spokesperson on social media and communication, with a particular focus on youth-related tantrums on Twitter.

While I spoke on behalf of communication in general, the segment also featured a spokesperson from the Guilford County School District. The district has started tweeting as an organization and is experiencing a high volume of student response using foul language and lacking communication respect.

During the interview, I recall the reporter asking me why I thought this happening. More importantly, he asked: [Tweet “Who is responsible for teaching social media etiquette?”]

It’s not just TV talking about our social tantrums

This morning, as I flipped through the pages of my Self magazine, I came across an article entitled, “Reel in your Rant”  by Annie Daly. She was addressing the need for self restraint when it comes to blowing off steam and sharing aggravation on your social media platforms. (She actually offers three bits of advice for a “detox plan.”)

Citing data from Topsy Data Services, Daly shared that hashtags #Rant and #TwitterRant were tweeted 33 percent more in 2013 than in 2012.

“Thumb thugs”

Later in the afternoon, as I enjoyed working from home on a rare snow day, my ears perked up listening to the TV magazine show, The Insider. One of the reporters was sharing her own experiences of receiving racially insulting tweets on a fairly regular basis. She actually referred to the people who sent such tweets as “thumb thugs.”

I was left utterly appalled after hearing about her experiences.

So this takes us back to the two questions raised earlier by the reporter.

Why is this happening? Who is responsible for teaching social media etiquette?

In part, I believe this is happening because we do not value, and are therefore losing, interpersonal communication skills.

There is no fear of accountability and respect isn’t even on the radar. It’s much easier to type words on a screen and hit send, tweet or post. It’s certainly much harder to look someone in the eye, especially someone you do not personally know, and spout off when you are standing face-to-face.

While I have been and remain an ardent advocate for social, it has expanded dialogue and conversations from across a table over a cup of coffee for 30 minutes to around the world with a laptop, phone or tablet in 30 seconds. We have ease; we have expanse. As a result, accountability and respect have been erased.

Photo Attribution: Courtesy of Tracie Tier Johnson. Site link:

Photo Credit: Tracie Tier Johnson, Website:


So who is responsible for teaching and ensuring we have social etiquette?

Basically, it’s on each of us as individuals and our own personal accountability.

If one by one we did this, the socialsphere would slowly evolve into a respectful domain of dialogue.

Seems to me it might just be as simple as the golden rule.

I would love to know your own thoughts and personal or professional experiences regarding social media etiquette.

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Kim · at

it is wonderful to receive the written word. I still get excited when i open the mailbox and see a white envelope with a return address on it that isn’t a bill or solicitor. Emails, not so much. the simple act of opening an envelope and reading a letter that someone took the time to write with a pen and put a stamp on top of the envelope means they truely value me as a friend. Someone who takes the time to write their thoughts vs spew them in social media means more to me than gold.

cooldeb · at

thanks for the comment Kim. I appreciate the written word as well. Appreciate your perspective!

slydawgg · at

I find myself so appalled by the language the current generation approach things. I am not talking about how awful they are with spelling or putting a single sentence together, because I’m no English major. I am more referring to how they cannot make a tweet or phrase without some curse word. When it comes time for their professional business life to start, how do these same people expect to get an interview or even get through an interview? I’m just a nerdy introvert and do have a hard time speaking with others, but at the same time I like to hear their voice. If all I can hear is their broken, misspelling offensive words, that’s how I perceive them as a person.

Deb, how do you suggest “policing” this form of communication though?

    cooldeb · at

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply slydawgg. To be honest, I think we are ‘looser’ in our language due to less accountability. If we had to stand in front of someone and say what we tweet, especially to a higher up, I would hope we would exhibit some level of protocol.

    For those of us who are sage, wise, experienced communicators – and to be honest, just good ol’ folk – we know honey works better over vinegar. We also ( I presume) have to assume cuss words are a part of the new venacular. We are both in higher ed so slydawgg, I think we get a unique and split perspective. This topic is probably worth another post. I’m seriously not sure they are splitting the difference.

    As far as policing, I think my post said it best – hold yourself accountable ie think golden rule. Obviously, parents have to help, educators, employers and family who are sage and wise and use honey. : )

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