In a bygone world, most of us shared our stupider, uglier, ruder comments only with our spouses, oldest friends or the bartender at the neighborhood pub. Now, way too many people have an irresistible urge to broadcast those words on Twitter. And on a near-daily basis, someone ends up in the news because an impolitic tweet has cost them their job or their reputation.
The latest prominent Twitter casualty appears to be Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the White House Office of Management and Budget. Tanden is eminently qualified for the OMB job, but as an ardent Democrat who worked for Hillary Clinton and served as president of the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, she was a prolific critic of Republicans on her Twitter account. Now, Republicans in the Senate are professing to be so deeply offended by her tweets that they unanimously refuse to vote for her confirmation. (Strangely, their delicate sensibilities were untouched by the endless cascade of Twitter vitriol that spewed forth from the most recent Republican president.)
Locally, one prominent practitioner of career suicide by Twitter is former Sounders coach Alan Hinton. In June, the Sounders organization dumped the once-beloved and admired Hinton from his broadcasting and “brand ambassador” job after he tweeted awkward comments about Black players. Apologies did not save him, just as they seldom save anyone exposed to the rigid judgments of today’s social arbiters on both the left and the right.
The thing that Tanden and Hinton have in common with all the pop stars, professors, journalists, actors, politicians, businessmen and others who have found themselves condemned after an ill-considered tweet is that they did not need to do it. So often, there is no particular reason a person tweets out the comment that ends up killing their career. They just follow a foolish impulse to weigh in.
So-called “social” media is dangerously antisocial. It is a pool of a billion sharks on a constant hunt for blood in the water. In most instances, the wisest thing is to simply stay out of the pool.
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