Twitter: An Unlikely Savior From Foot-In-Mouth Disease

Today, Indiana Pacer center Roy Hibbert ought to be reflecting on a big win in the NBA playoffs against the defending champion Miami Heat. He’s earned a day to rest up, ice his knees, and watch reruns of AMC’s “The Killing.” But that’s not what Roy Hibbert’s doing today. Instead, he’s been slathered up in prepared statements to apologize for his post-game comments in which he used a gay slur and profanity.

Too bad he didn’t consider using Twitter yesterday instead of a microphone.

I have to admit that I never imagined I’d find myself recommending Twitter as a safer alternative to express an opinion publicly. It has the same impact on how we communicate that our cars do on our comportment while we’re driving them. Both bestow a false sense of privacy and security. Just as some of us imagine ourselves to be fearless, invincible, and nearly always in the right while driving, to the point of flipping the bird to a person you’d otherwise never consider offending, when tweeting, it can feel like no one else is around. Whether in your car, at your desk, or using your smartphone, it’s always easier to write than speak brashly.

Yet, along comes Hibbert as just the latest in a string of celebrities, athletes and politicians who when behind a microphone check their brains and better angels at the podium and go straight to Stupidville. The recriminations, public outrage, and subsequent détente sought between the offender and the offended has resulted in a well-worn path that reeks of routine if not outright insincerity.

If I ran a public relations firm that served clientele from the Roy Hibbert, Reese Witherspoon, and Marion Berry School of Elocution, I’d recommend Twitter to the most at-risk mouth runners in the bunch. For as much as Twitter attracts its share of idiots and loudmouths, it still requires users to write what they wish to express. Until they tap the right icon, those words remain private, giving users time to edit and re-edit their thoughts, no matter how bewildering they may be. With Twitter supporting mobile apps for most smartphones, one need not sacrifice immediacy for this thinnest of defense mechanisms, either.

Just as the strictest of handgun laws won’t keep a person intent on harming others from inflicting damage, Twitter will never save the brainless from themselves. People will continue to tweet things someone will wish they could take back. Still, short-lived moments for reflection lurk among those 140 characters where none seems to exist when a microphone appears. Given the choice between saying and tweeting, the more volatile among us, if not all of us, would be wise to consider tweeting.

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