As we’ve mentioned before here, using social media is like playing with live ammo: You need to take it seriously, think things through before you publish and realize there are ramifications for your actions. Unfortunately for some people, having access to social media is like giving a toddler a bag of meth and an automatic weapon.
And, as we’ve mentioned here before, screwing up will happen. Your face is not on a lunchbox. You should do your best to avoid screwing up in the first place, but if you do, the worst thing you can do is double down on your screw up. As I’ve told my students who mess something up, “Filak’s first rule of holes is ‘When you find yourself in one, stop digging.'”
Case in point: Bari Weiss of the New York Times.
When Mirai Nagasu landed a triple axel during her performance at the Olympics, the first time a woman has done this in the history of the Games, Weiss tweeted out, “Immigrants: They get the job done.”
Nagasu is a U.S. citizen whose parents were immigrants and she has maintained dual citizenship in the U.S. and Japan. When someone pointed out this fact to Weiss, she responded in a dismissive and unsatisfying way:
This, like most dismissive statements tossed at people on social media, did not go over well with the Twitterverse, which responded in pretty much the same array of rage you get whenever someone makes a racist comment, complains about politics or picks on Brittney Spears. Some people called Weiss on the carpet for not taking this issue seriously enough, while others cut right to the chase and essentially told her, “Here’s toaster. Go play in the bathtub.”
The problem wasn’t that she said something glib that put her in a hole. The problem was that she kept digging.
First, it was a reference to the fact she was quoting (incorrectly) the line from “Hamilton” about immigrants. Then it was her trying to bend reality to fit the notion this was a compliment and that it spoke to Nagasu’s immigrant parents. Then it was her chastising all of Twitter for picking on her:
Anyone who has spent any time on social media had to be thinking at this point, “How deep do you really want to dig? This hole is getting to the point where the core of the Earth is about to be exposed…” It was similar to what happened when Louise Linton, an actress and the wife of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, sent out an Instagram post that detailed her fashion wear as she stepped off a government plane.
When people poked at Linton for flaunting her wealth, she belittled them, told them they didn’t pay nearly as much in taxes as she did and then called one poster “adorably out of touch.”
Instantly, she became the “Marie Antoinette of Instagram” and became a symbol of out-of-touch wealth in this country. Recently, she has noted that she was “super-duper sorry” about her social media rant, which I’m sure will quell the crowds that continue to call for her head.
The lesson for today is a simple one: When you put something out into the public via a media channel, you will be held to account. Before you decide to snap back at people who are voicing their opinions about your opinions, stop and think about a couple things:
- Is it possible that I just screwed up and that people, although they may be expressing it in a way I don’t like, are right that I was off base?
- Will any good come from me randomly trying to justify what I wrote or am I just fanning the flames for trolls and people with a legitimate beef alike?
- Is this REALLY the hill I want to die on? In other words, is this worth me pouring a ton of time, effort and energy into trying to change the minds of people who probably won’t change their minds as I engage in an ever-escalating Quixotic attempt to “set the record straight” or will it just be a waste of time?
I never thought I’d say this, but maybe a New York Times journalist can learn something from a guy at Barstool.
When Chloe Kim took the gold in the half-pipe event, Barstool radio host Patrick Connor called the 17-year-old “a hot piece of ass.” (Pause. Wipe the vomit off your lips and hang with me here…) After realizing that a grown man ogling an underage girl during the Olympics was not all that bright, he went on Twitter and wrote:
No, that shouldn’t entirely let him off the hook and yes, there should be more ramifications for him, but he at least decided he was deep enough in the hole and it was time to stop digging.