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Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Dangers of Social Media

After all the turmoil surrounding Ted Bishop's removal from the office of PGA President a mere month before his term was up, I think it's appropriate to revisit some advice from Herm Edwards.

Herm Edwards

Many of you probably don't recognize Herm Edwards, although he frequently shows up at celebrity golf events like the AT&T at Pebble Beach. Herm was an NFL cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons; he held numerous staff positions on NFL teams, including stints as head coach for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs; and he's currently a football analyst for ESPN and a popular motivational speaker.

One of Herm's most famous quotes concerns the advice he frequently gives to athletes concerning Twitter: "Don't Push Send!" Herm is especially emphatic about not tweeting when angry about something.

Ted Bishop's life over the last couple of days is a classic example of why this is good advice for everybody. In all fairness -- and this speaks specifically to Herm's point -- it's worth remembering that the original tweet wasn't intended to be a a sexual slur at all. Ted was responding to Ian Poulter's "attack" on Nick Faldo (which was, in turn, a response to Nick's "attack" on Sergio back at the Ryder Cup), and it was also clearly influenced by what Ted saw as an attack on Tom Watson by Phil Mickelson (and those who sided with Phil) over the last few weeks.

But as Herm frequently points out, social media is a loaded gun and you can't afford to be careless with it. Ted's "little girl" remark was merely an emotional outburst, an extra little shot intended to embarrass Poulter... but he didn't think things through before he pushed "send."

The rest, unfortunately for him, is now history.

A few more mistakes followed fast on the heels of this ill-advised tweet:
  • Ted not only tweeted the remark but also posted it on Facebook -- a double faux pas. The fact that it took extra time to do the Facebook post -- which was different from the tweet, so it wasn't just that his tweet automatically uploaded to Facebook -- made it much harder to say that the tweet was merely a momentary lapse of judgment.
  • Then -- and perhaps most damning -- came the brief "apology" where he said he "may have chosen the wrong words." It sounded as if he was merely responding to criticism and still hadn't considered the import of what he had said.
  • And later, after being removed from his position, he sent out an email where he implied that he was hoping for "due process" to give him a chance to prevent the inevitable result (yes, we all knew this would happen, didn't we?)... and then he chose to use the word "impeachment" to describe the result. An accurate word, but again word choice tells a story of its own. Clearly there's some anger and perhaps even bitterness over what has happened.
And it all came from the simple act of pressing the "send" button while in the heat of the moment, without taking time to consider the potential fallout from his tweet. I'm sure that wherever Herm Edwards is right now, he's shaking his head and wondering why we're so quick to hit the "send" button -- especially when we're upset about something -- and also wondering if we'll ever understand the dangers of social media.

It's certainly something worth thinking about, don't you think?

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