This has been a strange couple of weeks for Twitterers.
First, we had the idiotic PR mistake from a British Boutique who didn’t bother to Google “Aurora” before saying the trending topic must be about a dress they sell instead of the massacre of innocent people.
Then, we had an Olympic hopeful expelled from competing in the Games for making an equally stupid racist Tweet about her fellow competitors.
And, now, someone who most certainly should have known better, a Wall Street Journal editor topped them all with a terrible Tweet about the three men who died shielding their girlfriends from gunfire during the tragic Aurora shooting.
James Taranto, who writes the “Best of the Web Today” column and is a member of The Journal‘s editorial board, Tweeted:
As you can imagine, the reaction was not favorable for the seasoned journalist.
“Wow. Apparently, you have no soul,” Twitter user @dennholt wrote in reply.
“you sir are disgusting. How dare you!!!,” tweeted @txLSUgirl.
Mr. Taranto responded with an article entitled Heroes of Aurora: A mea culpa for an errant Tweet. In the article, Taranto explains that he and his colleagues had been discussing the stories coming out of the Aurora tragedy and “We intended this to be thought-provoking, but to judge by the response, very few people received it that way. The vast majority found it offensive and insulting.”
He then goes to to explain that his intention behind the Tweet was to inspire these women “who owe their lives to their men” to “live good, full, happy lives.” Sort of the “earn this” moment from Saving Private Ryan.
Now, I can understand the sentiment, truly I can. And, I’m quite sure not a day will go by in these womens’ lives where they don’t think back with gratitude and grief over the sacrifice their boyfriends made.
But, the communication of that “earn it” concept failed miserably, made even worse by the fact that a journalist – a professional communicator – said it.
And, it got me thinking. In this day and age, we’ve all said things online at one point or another that have come back to bite us. I know I have. But, it’s stories like these that only serve to remind us: words matter. What we say and how we say it matters. And, not just when we are promoting a product or crafting a story around a brand. Every day, every thing we say has an impact on someone, somewhere.
I can still – to this day – get choked up over the words of bullies from my childhood or beam with pride over the first time my mom and dad told me how proud they are of me. Words matter.
Today, when our thoughts are broadcast to the world the moment they occur to us, we should take greater pains to take a moment and think about what we are saying. We should take the time to think about how it will be received by others.
The folks at Chick-Fil-A have seen the power of their words in the past few days as boycotts break out across the country. An Olympic athlete had her dream of competing crushed because she didn’t consider how important her words are. A PR pro in the UK was likely fired for not researching the context of her words before using them. And, an editor’s intention was completely lost when he failed to find the right phrasing for the idea he wanted to express.
Words matter, y’all. So, take the time to value them and respect the power they wield.
With that, I leave you with a quote from Margaret Thatcher taken from the movie Iron Lady: