Parents, no doubt you’ve warned your kids about the dangers of social media. A photo or a thought, launched into cyberspace, can have the force of a SpaceX rocket — and can be even harder to retrieve.
That was the lesson learned by Paul Ryan, who on Feb. 3 tweeted a comment from an Associated Press story about the new federal tax law. The comment was from Ketchum, a secretary at Hempfield High School.
Ryan tweeted: “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said (that) will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”
The tweet went viral. The reaction was ... not kind.
One tweet read: “If Paul Ryan threw in an extra $1.50, we could get one of those gigantic Costco hot dogs too, which, if you ask me, would really seal the deal.”
Another read: “Coincidentally, this week at Costco there is a sale on Paul Ryan’s awareness.”
And another read: “Marie Antoinette: ‘Let them eat cake.’ Paul Ryan: ‘Let them shop at Costco.’”
Ryan reacted by deleting the tweet. Ketchum herself responded with humor and grace: “Oh, internet,” she quipped in an interview with LNP.
She was surprised her comment even made it into the AP report. “Especially since they picked up on my $1.50-per-week increase,” Ketchum said. “People interviewed before and after me had hundreds, and when (Ryan) chose to tweet about me, that cracked me up.”
(We don’t know why Ketchum’s increase was only $1.50 while she acknowledged others enjoyed increases of hundreds of dollars.)
Those of us who use social media frequently know all too well the terror of an ill-advised post.
Our advice, learned from experience: Think before you tweet. Make sure what you’re about to post is not only accurate but sensible; contains no double entendres, profanities or insults; and cannot easily be fired back in your direction.
Even when you’re tweeting about sports — those Eagles, for instance — tweet calmly. Posts dispatched in anger, or — as in Ryan’s case — overenthusiasm, can lead to regret.
And while we’re on the subject, a word or two for politicians about social media.
Twitter should not be used as a substitute for face-to-face contact, nor is it an alternative to meeting with the press to discuss pertinent issues. A one-way “conversation” on Twitter does not take the place of meaningful discussion and dialogue. And it will miss constituents who don’t use social media.
This, by the way, applies to all of us, but especially to elected officials.
Once you hit that “tweet” button, there’s no going back. You can delete and apologize until you turn purple. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. As New Jersey writer David Roth observed, “Every bad tweet lives a life.”
So many, who tend to tweet first and think later, have learned this the hard way (see Weiner, Anthony).
And on Thursday, entertainer Bette Midler inflamed the Twitterverse when she suggested Republican Sen. Rand Paul should be physically attacked, again — this time for his stance on spending and the federal budget.
“Where’s Rand Paul’s neighbor when we need him?” Midler tweeted.
Paul was seriously injured when he was assaulted by a neighbor in November.
In the annals of ill-advised tweets, Ryan’s is a mild gaffe compared to some of the reputation-killing streams of consciousness we’ve witnessed.
But, if nothing else, it’s a relevant reminder.
Remember Ketchum’s lament, “Oh, internet,” and proceed with caution.