Public Nature of Everything: Britt McHenry
Public Nature of Everything
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Britt McHenry has been suspended for a week by her employer, ESPN. Who is Britt McHenry? I didn’t know who she was before last week. But, many know her now because of this rant. (Note: the rant appears to be related to this story on the parking garage’s towing policies).
Joining Social Media
I joined Facebook in 2008. This came after I grew weary of a women’s message board I belonged to. I wanted something different. Facebook was different. Connecting with friends and making new ones, it was my new go-to place on the internet. But, then family started joining Facebook, and, well, I knew it was time for me to slowly slink away.
In 2009, I discovered Twitter. Joining for the sole reason of online shopping deals (yeah, don’t ask), I knew it would be awhile before any family joined there. I was “safe”. Slowly, however, I discovered sports.
Sports on Twitter. Sports writers on Twitter. Oh! And that blessed RETWEET button. Then, Tweetdeck (third-party app) came into my life. AND LISTS!!! OH THE TWITTER LISTS. A God-send. All of the sports information I could fit into my life, that I could ever desire, was in one beautiful place.
It was a connecting and conversation tool rolled into a news feed. Not just any news feed, but a sports news feed. I could have conversations with national and international journalists about sports. And that was an okay thing to do.
Turning my love of Twitter and lists into a job was the next step. It wasn’t easy. Hours and hours of time spent reading, retweeting, writing – all in the effort to get my foot in the door of sports media. Which I did, with stops at local and national outlets. Through it all, I’ve seen the ups/downs, highs/lows of sports and Twitter. When I say I’ve seen tens of thousands…upon tens of thousands of tweets, I mean that literally.
And, it hasn’t always been pretty. Media versus media. Media versus athlete. Media versus fan. Athlete versus fan. Throw celebrities and politicians in the mix and I’ve just about seen every type of “fight” you can imagine.
All because of Twitter.
In the early days of Twitter, people would throw out the advice, think before you tweet. Good advice, perhaps, back then. Before the spotlight was bright like today. People weren’t always willing to share their thoughts and reactions to news or sporting events. There was still a bit of uncertainty to what exactly this Twitter-thing was or how it fit into our every day lives.
As media, sports media especially, came to embrace Twitter as an easy news-sharing outlet, the attraction for it grew. It became a place to share and even find new stories. News outlets, sports websites and blogs (including my own) began posting new content based on what they saw on Twitter. Many of which now blend sports with pop culture.
I have long called Twitter the world’s largest sports bar. It’s a place to hang out and watch sports with your friends. Just like at a sports bar, you can talk sports, the current game(s) on tv, or delve into other subjects with your friends…and foes. Everything that happens at an actual sports bar happens on Twitter. Razzing, teasing, flirting, arguing, laughing – it happens on Twitter too. It just happens with people from all around the world.
For all the world to see.
What gets seen, isn’t always pretty.
McHenry and the Twitter Grapevine
Which brings us back to Britt McHenry. Her berating of a parking garage attendant is now news. Before social media, it would not have blown up like it did last week. Word of mouth story-telling is one thing. The Twitter grapevine is another.
McHenry joins a long list of public figures that has had to deal with the consequences of behavior. Former Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice found this out in 2013. Video of Rice throwing balls at players’ heads and verbally abusing players surfaced and a Twitter firestorm ensued. At the time, I myself was outraged. I had a son around the age of the players and there is no way I would want a coach treating my son like that. To others without college-aged sons, it was just plain and simple abuse.
The term “Twitter mob” was thrown around. People from all walks of life weighed in on Twitter with their opinion on Rice and Rutgers. There was a public outcry for something to be done about Coach Rice. Rutgers eventually did. A little late for some which only brought more criticism. It was a key moment showing the power of Twitter.
In 2015, when an employee gets in trouble, either because of their social media posts or, in this case, video, a prompt response is required. The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens learned this just last year. As details began to emerge about the Ray Rice incident, reaction was swift on Twitter. On the day the video was released by TMZ, a sampling of the reaction immediately thereafter:
- Much of Twitter discussing Rice video release but no mention on any ESPN networks. M-M doing pep rally show at Ford Field. #FailedJournalism (Tweeted at 5:11 am PT while much of America is either waking up or on morning commute)
- The amount of “but she married him so…” tweets I’m getting aren’t surprising at all. Good job you guys. Keep not getting it, at all. (Tweeted at 5:49am PT by someone working in sports media. Checked the mentions shortly after – only 2 or 3 tweets reflected this sentiment.)
- Ray Rice is a piece of shit. (Tweeted at 5:13 am PT by a Digital Manager)
- Social media out here nothing is private no more!! (Tweeted at 5:14 am PT by a former athlete)
- What time are the games tonight? Just trying to calculate how long you will all be mad and disappointed at the NFL for. (tweeted at 4:28am PT by a celebrity)
No “satisfactory” statements from the NFL or the Ravens came as Twitter raged. The silence was deafening. “We” wanted immediate action from the NFL. “We” wanted Rice suspended, thrown out. “We” wanted Ray Rice to suffer the consequences. “We” put him on Twitter trial and served as judge and jury. “We” demanded justice for Janay Rice.
Some have faced a firestorm for their tweets or social media posts. Britt McHenry didn’t tweet anything offensive or inflammatory like others have done (see Bill Simmons, Keith Law, Keith Olbermann, Justine Sacco). McHenry was reacting to an incident that got the best of her. She was being human.
That, in no way, excuses it. I can think of times where I have been upset or frustrated at situations that were wrong. There have been many times where I’ve read something on Twitter and wanted to correct people for their erroneous thinking. I wanted to put them in their place. But, it’s too easy to react, especially when emotions are high. It’s a challenge to stop and think
Every move, every word is scrutinized today. There is no sarcasm font on social media. We don’t have billboards on our foreheads to tell others that we’re frustrated. I’m sure if there were that may have helped McHenry in her situation. Or not.
We’re all human. Mistakes happen. We learn and grow from it. Twitter has taught me that it’s not enough to think before you tweet. One person’s sarcasm is another’s offense. It’s up to us to be cognizant of that when we share on social media.
We want people to think like us. We want people to react andrespond like us. That’s who we want to hang around with in real life isn’t it? People who we see eye-to-eye with, have a conversation with and who won’t challenge our thinking. Woe to those who challenge us, right?
Hell hath no fury like a Twitter mob scorned. (Tweeted in September 2014 by a media member)
Social media is a reflection of society. I suppose it’s all a part of our mobile-first society that we are slowly heading toward, if we’re not there already. Instead of person-to-person communication, society has taken to tweeting and posting news, thoughts and reactions online. On both a personal and professional level. It’s our first course of action now.
This all has happened in a matter of a few short years. I wasn’t taught how to think before tweeting. Were you? Sure, there’s the school of thought about the potential consequences of our actions, but how many of use realized this when we first started tweeting or posting on social media? I didn’t. But now, I delete more tweets and posts than I make. As DeAngelo Williams stated in his January 2015 post on The Cauldron, “…it also seems clear that everyone needs to take a step back and think critically about the roles they play on the various platforms they are so engaged with. “
Social media has given us a false sense of security. Sometimes we feel like it’s a private conversation with just one person or just our followers. That mindset can be expanded to when the camera is rolling.
It’s easy to forget the public nature of everything in the heat of the moment.
In the public nature of everything, perhaps it’s best to live by The Golden Rule…
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.