Today’s world of chat rooms, social networking and micro-blogging services allows instant communication and messaging like lightning in a bottle. Twitter is a website that enables its users to send and read messages called tweets. All users must create a profile page in order to communicate. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user’s profile page.
Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched in July of that year. Since then, Twitter has gained extreme popularity worldwide, with over 240 million users, generating 85 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day.
I refused to use Twitter, become a member of Facebook or MySpace and didn’t start until I was asked to by my program director at 101 ESPN. I struggled with the whole social communication excitement.
My communication tool was my Blackberry and now an I-phone. Texting on my phone was as far as it went. To be honest with you, I was not very interested to say the least. Because I’m a member of the media now, it is a must and in some cases a lifeline for the most up to up to date breaking news and information.
Millions of people including celebrities, entertainers, sports professionals and top executives of Fortune 500 corporations use Twitter. While all Americans still may exercise their right of freedom of speech, and this being a great communication tool, it can also be a hindrance and downright embarrass a person by their comments.
Athletes seem to be the ones really engaged with Twitter, having conversations with their NFL fans, friends and in some cases asked ladies for dates over the social media outlet (along with communicating their whereabouts and every move they make day and night).
The most recent thoughts of several NFL players stirred anger, controversy and really showed the ignorance of some individuals, and how when you hit the send button, it is out there for all to see, and retweet to others quickly.
Last week, Rashard Mendenhall, the Pittsburgh Steelers running back, made a poor choice when making comments on the death of Osama bin Laden: “It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side. We’ll never know what really happened on 9/11. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
Teammate Ryan Clark said Mendenhall’s tweets about bin Laden’s death illustrated the dangers of social media. Several Pittsburgh media sources said owner Art Rooney II and director of football operations Kevin Colbert worked quickly to distance themselves from Mendenhall. While 9/11 was an unbelievable day of events, millions of Americans still live the nightmare every day. Mendenhall lost an endorsement from Champion (an athletic wear maker) over the whole thing.
Reggie Bush is still reeling after the Saints drafted running back Mark Ingram in the first round. Bush tweeted “It’s been fun New Orleans.” While this was not as damaging as Mendenhall’s comments, it just shows that athletes and people in general send their thoughts first and have to apologize later.
Several days after the post-draft comments, he fired off more tweets about the lockout saying, “Everybody complaining about the lockout! Shoot I’m making the most of it! Vacation, rest, relaxing, appearances here and there! I’m good!” Minutes later Bush added, “Right about now we would be slaving in 100 degree heat, practicing twice a day, while putting our bodies at risk for nothing.”
As of today, there are 1,015 NFL players on Twitter and 3,800-plus athletes from all sports, tweeting and communicating with their fans. Cincinnati’s newest Bengal, A.J. Green, already has 26,447 followers and he hasn’t caught a pass in the NFL. Shaquille O’Neal has over three million followers. Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce over a million, just to name a few.
While the information super-highway (and Twitter) is a beautiful thing, it can bring heartache and lawsuits. Sometimes, it can even force an athlete to apologize for a statement they make without thinking it through.