By Jessica Galliart, @jessicagalliart
December 23, 2013
You've heard what happened by now, and you've seen the tweet. No need to recount the "story," right? Right. (Ah, OK, here's a link if you really need it.)
Let's get one thing straight: The tweet was bad. Really, really bad. Nobody is defending her offensive remark, not even Sacco, a public relations professional, herself. And while there's no defense for it, I can't help but feel incredibly uncomfortable with the way we, the Internet, responded to it. It's a shining example of how 2013 seemed to be the year of the Social Media Police, this elite force of Internet crusaders who will stop at nothing to see that, uh, ... people who say stupid things ... get publicly humiliated and, uh ... lose their jobs ... and, uh, get added to their year-end clickable list of "social media fails" and "stupid people doing stupid things."
So, uh ... well done, guys?
This situation in particular is a bit more aggravating, when it comes to the seemingly weekly "story" of "person says something stupid on social media, gets life ruined." Couple things:
-Originally reported by Valleywag in a quick post a few hours after the tweet went out, Buzzfeed's entire staff jumped on the "story" soon after, tweeting Sacco directly and sharing link after link after link about it. By the end of the day, Buzzfeed was then REPORTING ON the "Twitter storm" ... that they had basically created. (They do this a lot.)
-@JustineSacco had about 200 followers before this. Would anyone have even seen the damn tweet had the Buzzfeed buzzards not circled and attacked? Would we all be better off if we DIDN'T see stupid and offensive tweets like this getting spread? Because ...
-Uh, have you ever looked at Twitter? In any given five minutes, you'll see at least a handful of tweets that are similarly as bad, if not worse (how do we gauge what's "worse," anyway?), than Sacco's tweet. There's a section of Twitter, which I like to call Bad Twitter, that is, to put it bluntly, a cesspool of filth, racism, sexism, homophobia and self-hate (links are probably NSFW, which is the point, here). We all know this. Why pick out Sacco's tweet to vilify?
-OK, her field of expertise? Public relations. Yes. How juicy! Except not. One's "expertise" does not make her immune from the occasional pitfalls of social media. If you've never tweeted something you regretted (even years later), then you're probably incredibly boring on Twitter.
-Girl was out of touch for 12 hours. Yeah, the #HasJustineLanded hashtag was funny on the surface, but could you imagine walking into that alternate universe? One social media user's entertainment is another's personal hell.
Before we succombed to pressures to build page views with "social media fail" clickbait -- and before we all subsequently continued to fall for this garbage -- we actually used to give a damn about getting the other side of the story. In Sacco's case, there's probably zero excuse that would make what she shared OK -- nope, sorry, "I got hacked" will never work -- but it would have at least given us a little insight before millions of strangers deemed themselves the Twitter Police and set out to destroy her life just to kill time during the afternoon lull and drive up page views.
The woman lost her job. She will be on the Google blacklist for years and probably have a really tough time finding another job. She made a mistake, she said a dumb thing -- but who are we, Internet, to decide she had to die for this social media sin? Why stand up and demand that a public relations exec's company fire her ass for this comment but not when a politician flames the gay community? Or a cable news pundit mocks rape victims? Or a high schooler harrasses another with tweets?
We get it: People make stupid decisions, and when those decisions are as public as these are, there is going to be a consequence.
But as someone who gets a paycheck from doing social media, I can confidently say that the punishment does not fit the crime in about 80 percent of these cases. A person's job and livelihood are worth more than your icebreaker conversation at the bar later and a couple thousand page views from a "social media fails" column that probably sucks anyway.
JESSICA GALLIART TWEETS FOR A LIVING! TWEET HER HOW TERRIBLE YOU THINK SHE IS AT @JESSICAGALLIART.
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