Twitter is a powerful but dangerous platform – comments are broadcast to the world, and even after deletion, are preserved (somewhere) forever. If you’re witty, like @pourmecoffee, you can rise to fame; but if you’re impulsive (and, like I presume Sacco, make a comment that might immediately be recognized as ironic by your friends and anyone familiar with the Book of Mormon musical, but perceived as insensitive by others), you can lose your job very quickly.
Sure, one way around this dilemma is to play it safe, and share only carefully thought-out, lawyer-approved tweets; this is the approach many corporate execs take – and is also why most are worthless to follow, and as I’ve previously suggested, might as well not bother.
The fun part of Twitter is the rapid banter, the immediacy, the slightly unguarded comments people make that helps you to know them better, and that as a whole make for a rich virtual environment.
Part of what makes following healthcare folks like academic urologist Ben Davies (@daviesbj)and TheStreet biotech columnist Adam Feurstein (@adamfeuerstein) so much fun is their directness, their engaging brashness, and at least the appearance of disinhibition.
In residency, we used to refer to this trait (which often emerged after a long night on call) as being “frontal,” presumably in reference to the type of unregulated behavior that can result from damage to the frontal lobe.
The challenge is walking what at times can be a fine line, preserving the authenticity that makes Twitter so special while simultaneous remaining sufficiently mindful as to avoid a career-ending overshare.
My preference would be an environment far more tolerant of the occasional frontal remark, so that more people would be encouraged to share more of themselves, resulting in an even more open and engaged community.
The virtual mob that descended upon the Sacco tweet and forced her dismal before her plane even landed suggests we may headed in a far more repressive direction.
Note: I can be found on Twitter at @DShaywitz; readers interested in the history of Twitter might enjoy this WSJ review of Nick Bilton’s Hatching Twitter, and additional follow-up thoughts here. This post about doctors and social media might also be of interest.