19th Oct 2012. By Timothy X. Tai –
Sticks and stones may break our bones but tweets can inflict a whole lot more damage. Now before I go any further, I need to clarify what in the world a ‘tweet’ is for the benefit of those of us who are a little bit more technologically-disinclined. Prior to the year 2006, a ‘tweet’ was nothing more than the chirping sound that a small bird made. Since July 2006 however, a ‘tweet’ now refers to the text-based message of up to 140 characters that one would post on Twitter, the online microblogging service.
Obviously, if you’re part of the 500+ million people who tweet, then this article is definitely for you. There are about 340 million tweets being generated every single day (that’s about 4000 tweets every second and a staggering 124 billion tweets a year!) and as you can imagine, with that many tweets flying about in cyberspace, there are bound to be many inappropriate/controversial tweets that cause more trouble than they’re worth.
Take the example of a 26-year -old bar manager in Ireland who posted two seemingly harmless (to him) tweets before going to Los Angeles for a holiday this year. In one of his tweets, he mentioned that he would be in LA in three weeks’ time, annoying people and “diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up”. Then before he left for LA, he tweeted the following:
Upon arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport, he was immediately handcuffed, arrested and interrogated for 5 hours by US government officials. It turned out that the US Department of Homeland Security had seen his tweets and suspected him of carrying out various acts of terrorism. Despite his desperate attempts to explain himself (apparently the word ‘destroy’ is used in the British slang to mean ‘to party’) and that his Marilyn Monroe tweet was just a joking reference to an episode of the comedy show Family Guy, the US Customs didn’t see the innocence or humor in his tweets. They put him in a guarded cell for 12 hours before sending him back to UK.
Fans of the English Premier League might also know all about a certain football player’s recent trouble with the English Football Association after he launched a foul-mouthed Twitter rant at the governing body. Although he deleted his tweet 90 minutes later, it was too late. His comments had gone viral and had been retweeted almost 20,000 times. At the time of writing, the footballer is reportedly being fined 2 weeks’ pay by Chelsea FC which amounts to around £240,000 (about RM 1.2 million) and that’s not including a potential fine by the English FA! Who would’ve thought that a tweet could cost so much?
There are countless more examples of tweets that have landed people in hot water and caused them to lose jobs, lose friends and even make new enemies. Which is what led me to pen the following guidelines that I’ve named “The 3 Things Thou Shalt Remember Before Thou Tweet”.
#1. Think before you tweet!
This might seem like a no-brainer but the fact that people continue to end up in all sorts of trouble over their tweets suggests that people really aren’t thinking before they tweet. The bible cautions us in Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” James 1:19 goes on to say, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (italics mine). Just think of all the trouble that could have been avoided (and all the money that the footballer could have saved) if everyone really thought about the consequences of what they were about to post before hitting that “Tweet” button. So to paraphrase James 1:19, “Be slow to tweet!”
#2. You have the right to remain silent
With Twitter, people can now tell the entire world what they’re thinking or doing at all times. However, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it all the time. You don’t have to tweet every single thought that crosses your mind. In fact, it’s in your best interest NOT to. And seriously, no one really wants to know how many times you had to go to the toilet because you had char kueh teow and teh tarik for breakfast. That’s just TMI (too much information). Listen to what Proverbs has to say about this: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge” (Prov. 17:27) and “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Prov. 10:19). In short, it’s good to show restraint in your tweets.
#3. Anything you tweet can be used against you
You might argue that the abovementioned 26-year-old bar manager’s tweets were unfairly used against him. However the fact remains that he did make those comments and so he had to bear the consequences of his words. We must remember that just as we are responsible for every action we take, we are equally responsible for every word that we speak (or tweet). The bible clearly tells us that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov. 18:21a) and so our words can either build others up or tear them down. And if that’s not reason enough to be careful with our words, Jesus himself warned us that one day “people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:36).
With those 3 things in mind, let us endeavor to be like David when he wrote Psalm 19:14, that we might each say “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart and the tweets of my hands be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Italics mine)
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