What’s Mightier?

While a pen is mightier than the sword, it seems that the keyboard defeats them both when it comes to informing the public. Between Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, IM, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube, blogs, and email, word spreads in the blink of an eye and the touch of a key; however, while these have proven to be great tools for journalists, what can be said for those without experience or knowledge of what it means to inform others? I think it’s great that the millions of Americans that exist online are exercising their right to speak their mind, but this insanely large group of participants should also be aware that simply because an idea or opinion flashes through your mind in the matter of seconds, doesn’t mean it warrants publishing without an additional few seconds of consideration.

Thanks Gilbert Gottfried (or as Twitterians may know him: @RealGilbert), the voice of Aladdin’s Iago, for that insightful tweet you so gallantly shared:  “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.” And while England has produced several talented and respectable writers over the years, this 18-year-old Buckingham Palace Guard was revealed to not be one of them after posting this on Facebook: “Hur and william drove past me on friday n all a got was a sh***y wave while she looked the opposite way from me, stupid stuck up cow am I not good enough for them!” I’m not so narrow-minded as to think that these types of posters are what make up the masses, but I believe it should be acknowledged that there are far too many people that have allowed rash judgment to affect their decisions.

Why is it then when we delete accounts, emails, postings, and even unsaved documents, we are asked to pause and reconsider, but the same standard is not set when posting our thoughts, photos, and personal information? While social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are constantly updating the widgets and features of their sites, they never stop to consider ways to prevent uninhibited postings. It’s not as if there are a shortage of possibilities: develop a confirmation window for posts to ensure the author has considered what they are sharing; make available a “lock” feature that could be enabled prior to night-outs in order to minimize drunken tweets; initiate a feature that can be set by the user, and can allow a five minute “cooling” period between typing the post and actually posting it, giving people a chance to reconsider. In fact, a majority of tweets later regretted by the poster are deleted within ten minutes of posting, such as Sarah Palin’s famous tweet, “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”

It seems Palin wasted some of the precious 140 characters with the unnecessary and nonexistent word, “refudiate”. Although Palin was quick to delete this post, the commentators were quicker. While I am a big believer that politicians should write their own social media posts–to avoid the frequent situation that ends in blaming a tactless staffer–they should still have others involved to keep these types of errors at bay.

We all have stupid ideas, or say ridiculous things, that we almost always take back when we realized what we’ve thought, said, or done, but with a weapon such as the keyboard, our typed words do not disappear as they would were they spoken. And yet, despite growing up with the constant warning of the immortality of a digital thought, we all make foolish mistakes. We’re human. That’s why we need to take precautions, a fact that social media sites have yet to recognize.