One of the most terrifying moments in an internet user’s life is when they suddenly become acutely aware that anything they say or have said online can be brought up and used against them – often to devastating (or embarrassing) effect.
Take, for example, poor old Stuart MacLennan, a Scottish Labour candidate standing in the Moray constituency. Considered one of Labour’s rising stars, the 24-year-old was sacked after a newspaper discovered comments he’d made on Twitter describing the elderly as “coffin dodgers”, David Cameron as a “twat”, and X-Factor contestants Jedward as “odious little shits”. For all that his comments might not have been particularly fitting for a man in his position, I’d venture that a few throwaway comments – most of which were made before MacLennan became an MP – are less offensive than those MPs who retain their seats despite their involvement in the expenses scandal.
Twitter was also the scene of a celebrity faux-pas yesterday, as a slightly surreal online spat occurred involving singer-songwriter Aimee Mann and rapper Ice-T. The argument started when Mann tweeted “Christ, there is no reason in the world anyone should ever have cast Ice T in a television show.” His charming response? “Hey @aimeemann stop worrying bout my acting bitch, and worry about your WACK ass music. In the mean time.. Eat a hot bowl of Dicks! Ice T”. Setting aside the unusual imagery of Ice’s tweet for a second, Mann’s reply is interesting in the way it succinctly points out something we all too readily forget when we bear our souls online. “I do not like to hurt people’s feelings,” she later said. “I forget that twitter is not just me and four other dorky friends, ragging on TV stars.”
It’s something we’d all do well to remember. The internet is a very public place, capable of amplifying throwaway comments until a casual joke can turn into an internet maelstrom. So think before you Tweet – it could save you an awful lot of trouble. Or from having to eat a hot bowl of dicks, anyway.
(Thanks to the wonderful Christian Donlan for alerting me to this disagreement.)