• Wed, Dec 29 2010

Modern Etiquette: Why You Can’t Solve Problems on Twitter

Image via WENN

Earlier this year, singer/celebutante Kelly Osbourne and her then-fiance, model Luke Worrall, split up. The split was messy, with Kelly accusing Luke of cheating on her. Now, she has taken to her Twitter account to bash Luke and talk about what a bad guy he is. Although it should seem quite clear that Twitter is not a good way to deal with interpersonal issues, Kelly’s recent behavior makes me think that this concept could stand to be reiterated. So here goes.

  • Problems are never best dealt with publicly.
    As much as it’s tempting to publicly humiliate someone who has hurt you – particularly if said hurt happened publicly – the only way that two people can genuinely work through a conflict is on their own. That means two people in a room or on a phone talking through what happened and acknowledging their own misdeeds. But 140-character long jabs at each other? That doesn’t do anything except air dirty laundry in public, and doing so will only make the named party angrier.
  • Having the last word does not mean having the best word.
    There are some people who think that whoever spoke last wins simply by outlasting the other person. But that’s not true. Yelling more loudly does not make you more right, and getting in one last barb when the other person leaves the room does not make you superior. It simply serves to point out that you have been carrying the grudge longer.
  • Once you’ve taken the low road, it is almost impossible to change course and take the high road.
    You can’t unring a bell, and it’s incredibly difficult to take back something that you said online. Yes, you can delete tweets, but plenty of online services provide ways to find deleted web content. Plus, if you’re a celebrity – like Kelly is – it’s highly likely that someone will copy what you wrote or take a screenshot of your Twitter page, which leaves a permanent mark of what you wrote. And once something has been said, it’s almost impossible to unsay it.
  • The good feeling wears off pretty quickly.
    One of the reasons that Twitter is so popular is that people love instant gratification. However, the high that comes from tweeting something that gets responses dies down pretty quickly. That’s the downside of living in such a fast-paced culture: there is always going to be another story that comes along just as quickly, and soon you won’t be the center of attention anymore. And once the high of the initial response to your comments goes way, the comments will still be there, and you’ll still have to live with them.
  • Criticizing someone else online gives other people permission to criticize you online.
    Once you’ve said hurtful things about someone in public, that essentially opens the door for people to speak the same way about you. If, say, Kelly were to hold a press conference tomorrow and ask that people leave her alone and respect her privacy, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would take her request seriously. Why? Because she’s the one who started it.
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