The importance of self-control online

By Megan McCracken
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A few years ago, Justine Sacco, a young corporate communications director, was making her way from New York to South Africa. During her travels, she mindlessly tweeted jokes about travel and became increasingly bold in what she thought was cleverness. Before the final leg of her journey, she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!” and boarded her plane to Cape Town.

Within a few hours, she became the most talked about person on Twitter. After landing, her feed was filled with angry comments and thousands responded to her offensive tweet. Her job was now in jeopardy and her character in question, all because of this ill-advised tweet.

There are many other stories of how Twitter users, in a fleeting moment, altered the course of their life because they did not pause to think things through before clicking send. One of the most recent examples was this past August when a woman lost her NASA internship after not apologizing to a former NASA engineer for her vulgar language.

The woman, @NaomiH_Official, was very excited about receiving the internship and in her tweet said some profane words. The former NASA engineer simply replied to her tweet, “language.” Instead of apologizing, she insulted him. The man then proceeded to tell her that he is on the National Space Council that oversees NASA.

Self-control online is increasingly important and something that needs to be talked about, especially in academic settings as students prepare to enter the workforce. Social etiquette rules still apply online and the well-known golden rule of “treat others as you would like to be treated” is even more important in an online setting. The reason being, what is posted is there is for the world to see and unfortunately, can define a person. This can include what a future employer may think of a person.

A sophomore pre-nursing student who wished to remain anonymous advises other students to think about their future first before posting. He says, “Whatever you want to say, if it’s an impulse, take an extra minute to breathe in and breathe out. ‘Is this gonna hurt my professional career? Maybe ten years down the line, if my employer saw this, would they want to hire me?’”

Angelica Garcia, a senior psychology major recommends that you think about the specific reason why you are posting something. She says, “Think about why you are using this. Are you using this because you need to vent? Are you trying to get an important message out? There’s a difference between Twitter and a therapist.”

Generally, people are bolder online than they are in real life. “It’s easier to say some things online, but this differs from person to person,” says Jose Caudillo, a freshman computer science major, “I think people are bolder because you don’t actually confront a person face to face.”

If you are unsure if a tweet or a post is a good idea, maybe wait and think about it a little more first. You can always call a best friend or journal about your thoughts instead. The best way to stop a bad tweet from spreading is to never post it in the first place. Your reputation and future may be at stake.

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