Jackass star Ryan Dunn was killed when he crashed his Porsche 911 GT3 early Monday morning. A few hours before the 3 a.m. accident, Dunn had posted a photo on Twitter in which he is seen drinking with friends. Hours later, movie critic Roger Ebert tweeted: “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.” By Tuesday, Ebert apologized on his blog, “I was probably too quick to tweet. That was unseemly.”
Unseemly?? Now that’s an understatement.
In the meantime, the tweet prompted an outpouring of criticism against Ebert on Facebook and Twitter, so much of it profane that Facebook removed Ebert’s page.
Ebert might have felt marginally contrite about his insensitive tweet, but certainly not about Facebook cutting his ties with his followers. “Facebook! My page is harmless and an asset to you,” he wrote. “Why did you remove it in response to anonymous jerks? Makes you look bad.”
Facebook promptly returned Ebert’s page with a quick statement: “The page was removed in error. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
“He lived up in Malibu on a tiny street and he was texting while driving and he accidentally went over the cliff,” the surgeon’s ex-girlfriend told People Magazine. More specifically, he was tweeting. Below a picture of his dog, he wrote, “Border collie jill (sic) surveying the view from atop the sand dune.”
And don’t even get me started about Anthony Weiner, the married US congressman who lost his seat because he was caught sexting with a Las Vegas blackjack dealer and then lied about it. Without even commenting on the banality of his texts, didn’t he know that the Internet is forever? (Obviously not, the question was rhetorical.)
Has the world gone insane? People are dying to tweet and tweeting about people dying. Politicians are posting public messages that they wouldn’t dare to whisper out loud. And then a whole online keiretsu of statements are released about the tweets and the comments.
Look, we all know texting and driving is a really bad idea. Recent studies show that it’s even more dangerous than drinking and driving. But that study wouldn’t have helped Ebert, Ryan or Weiner. They weren’t DWI (driving while intoxicated); they were TWS (texting while stupid). And as comedian Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.”
Common sense tells us that when you’re in a hole and you want to get out, the first thing to do is stop digging. But the better thing is not to fall in the hole in the first place.
Maybe it’s time for some marketing lines to come to the rescue. Want to know what to do when you’re on fire? “Stop, drop, and roll.” How about when you approach a busy intersection? “Stop, look, and listen.”
Those lines work. After all, how often do you read about flaming pedestrians being hit by speeding cars?
So why don’t we take a page from elementary school safety campaigns and and adopt The Seven Steps for Successful tweeting? “Think. Write. STOP. Edit. Decide. STOP. Post.”
If people would just pause for a moment to think about what they’re posting, texting, and tweeting – or where and when they’re doing it – maybe they’d think twice before endangering themselves, their brands, and all the people around them.