When ‘Tweeting’ Goes Wrong

crying girl

A Valuable Lesson to be Learned

 As you can see in the above photo of Stephanie Rice, an Australian Olympic swimmer, Twitter can be bad for your career if you aren’t doing it right. It’s good to be sure that what you’re sending out when you hit, “Tweet,” is truly what you want the world to know about exactly ‘what’s happening,’ in your world.

Social media outlets are a fairly new and wonderful thing in our online lives and for the most part, there are plenty of positives which they present. But sometimes in the world of sports, the incredibly powerful 140 characters of Twitter can go terribly wrong. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots…

On second thought, don’t ask Coach, don’t ask Coach anything…ever.

The Danger of Social Media Flubs

So instead, let me fill you in on just how wrong things can go when we let the world read our thoughts in 140 characters of un-checked opinion.

A quick search of the web can land you on page after page of news regarding ‘tweets’ that have landed rich and famous athletes in gallons upon gallons of hot water. The most troubling things you’ll find, is that no one seems to learn the one lesson at hand; Twitter is open to the public!

When posting 140 characters of opinion, be ready for the blowback.

What NOT to Do on Twitter

I recently learned myself just how badly things can go when you tweet the wrong thing and the wrong people see it. Upon the completion of a football I was covering at Westfield State College in Westfield, MA on November, 22, I made the biggest mistake of my brief Twitter career.

  • The short version of the story goes a like this. My tweet announced the final result of the game, “Shepherd Hill falls in Div. 4 State Semifinal, 36-20, to a classless Wahconah squad here in Westfield, Rams will certainly be back in 2015.”

Having used information I got via my on-field access and contact with coaches and players, I was informed that the Wahconah squad had behaved rather terribly throughout the contest, pre-game, and postgame and that their head coach even refused to shake hands as is customary at game’s end.


Just One Word

This was a terrible mistake on my part. I took for granted the fact that I was there to cover Shepherd Hill, a team from nearby Dudley, MA, not Wahconah, a squad that plays nearly 100 miles from my home. Well, needless to say, when you’re tweeting, the world finds out, and they find out quickly.

  • It only took one search for “Wahconah” by a parent looking for game info to start the avalanche that ensued. “Shots fired from CMASS! RT @jon_gouin…” the angry parent wrote, while retweeting my post to all of his friends in Western Mass, including to the Wahconah Athletic Director and the school’s Twitter feed and fan support feed.

“The phone blew up like we were having a f-ing telethon”- Dave Chappelle

What followed closely resembled a telethon on my iPhone. Every few seconds I’d get a Twitter notification of a new direct message from another angry parent, who, in reality did not have the inside information that I did, only the ‘shot fired’ from my Twitter feed, but, that was all it took.

  • Needless to say, it took a lot of explaining, and an awful lot of apologies for that one word, ‘classless,’ and while in my heart I felt that I wasn’t entirely wrong in what I said, I knew deep down that perhaps I should have said it differently.

Lesson Learned.

In the end, the mistake cost me, just like a professional athlete may feel the blowback for his untimely or even despicable tweet. Sure, I wasn’t suspended, fined, or crucified on national television, but I suffered enough bad publicity in one night to really make me see the depth and capacity of Twitter’s reach. It really made me wonder, how can these athletes keep doing this? I know I’ll never make such an error again!

  • The moral of the story is this: know your audience. And when you’re on social media, especially instant media like Twitter, your audience is everyone. Everyone you’re considering, as well as everyone you aren’t. It only takes one person to link your circle to theirs, and their friends circles to their friends. Before long, you’ve angered dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people just by speaking your mind, whether right or wrong.

    Just know who you’re dealing with when dealing with social media, as you truly never know what one little word may be the ‘shot fired’ that can ruin your day, week, month, or career!

Other Works Cited
Belichick Vine courtesy of: http://notsportscenter.com/vine-bill-belichick-scoffs-at-question-of-a-qb-controversy/
Silvers, Adam. (15 July, 2013). The 50 Most Controversial Tweets in Sports History. Complex Media, Inc. Web. 28 November, 2014. http://www.complex.com/sports/2013/07/the-50-most-controversial-tweets-in-sports-history/
Spongebob Vine courtesy of https://vine.co/v/On7KYbMv5Qe
To read about the Shepherd Hill Rams versus the Wahconah Warriors from the Massachusetts High School football Division 4 State Semifinals, at Westfield State College, on Saturday, Nov. 22, please check out the latest Webster Times, of Stonebridge Press Newspapers, at: http://www.webstertimes.net/pdf/WEB.2014.11.28.pdf.

2 thoughts on “When ‘Tweeting’ Goes Wrong

  1. Jonathan, this is the reason I stay away from Twitter. I’m far too crass to be on a site where everyone can read what I post. The information was excellent and informative, but I would consider removing the bullets and left-aligning your text. It’ll be easier to read, I think. Your use of graphics and whitespace is great; I especially like that your post was narrow…by that I mean the formatting keeps my eyes on the post. The only other suggestion I make is that you make your image captions a little more clear, that is, maybe move them closer to the images so it’s easier to tell where they belong. I hope that makes sense.

    Overall, solid post. I look forward to reading more! 🙂


  2. Jonathan – that was a great post of being extra careful on Twitter (and I think all social media in general). We’ve all seen, read and heard about the countless controversies that started on social media. As I said last week, I really like your style of writing as it makes sports accessible to people who aren’t necessarily clued in to the intricacies of your chosen game/tradition. Here are few comments about this weeks post:
    – Your over all structure of breaking the post down and adding headers works well, I understand the issue, examples and lessons learned. However, the bullet points make things a bit difficult to read. I think you could remove most of them and just have individual paragraphs with only a few left in for a better flow of text.
    – It would have been great to explain the Twitter controversies in your two examples in the body text or at least had links to the stories embedded. I Googled both to get a better context of your post (also not realizing your had citations at the end), but I think most online readers like instant click throughs. More importantly, the Australian swimmer’s name is Stephanie Rice and not Wright.
    – I think someone else mentioned this, but a quick proofread would catch a few capitalization and punctuation issues. I’m terrible at proofing by own writing, but here’s a link with some handy tips: http://grammar.about.com/od/improveyourwriting/a/tipsproofreading.htm (I find printing stuff out and reading our loud quite helpful).

    Looking forward to next week’s adventures in sport!


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