Monday, August 26, 2013

Twitter behavior on Mgotalk blog: Please be civilized

With the exception of 11 Saturdays every year, I avoid Twitter like the plague. I was/am a professional writer, for more than 30 years, and I hate when I am limited by a word quota to make my point. Sometimes 144 characters doesn’t come close to offering something intelligent, thoughtful and truthful.
Yet, in the mad, mad, mad, mad world of Twitter, such a quota has become the limit to which people can communicate … and think. Letters are substituted for actual words and too many tweeters try to consolidated their brainpower into such a pea-sized vocabulary.
Last season, I served as Mgotalk’s TwitterBird, airing out my thoughts on Michigan football and various performances – either from the press box or my in-house favorite fan recliner; complete with my finger on my remote’s “mute” button when the on-air analysis became too much for my ear (and brain) to handle. But, to tell the truth, it was NOT an enjoyable affair.
The reason was simple: too many people with access to a laptop, iPad or smart people simply felt compelled to offer the most ridiculous, banal and offensive comments – mostly for the mere sake of their shock value. I guess I was na├»ve to think that Michigan football fans were incapable of such rudeness, but it is a virus that affects indiscriminately (once someone crosses the forbidden line, everyone feels compelled to follow).
I prefer my discussion to be civil; it was how I was raised WAY back in the day when you WERE judge by your behavior towards other. Twitter is the worst case scenario of what texting and Facebook started; vileness emerging from the ether.
I gravely detest the anonymity of such “social” media; the ability to flip the bird to anyone and then run and hide under a false num de plume, or a series of numbers accepted as a real person. It’s just cowardice NOT to be a stand-up man (or woman, they can be just as offensive in TwitterWorld); if you think it, you should own it.
When I owned my own community papers (before the Internet, personal computers and when you used manual typewriters on real-to-goodness paper), I had an iron-clad policy – if you wanted to criticize me, or others, you HAD to sign your name to it … and I checked to see if it was valid before publishing anything.
When queried about that policy, I simply reminder people that my name was attached (like a tick) to what I thought, and I even added my photo to boot. If I stood behind my words, they ought to follow suit. But most people, not wanting others to know what they believed or thought, backed off from disclosure.
That was too bad because it didn’t foster an atmosphere of open dialogue and let, eventually, to the current state of uncivil affairs, where people think volume and nasty comments replaces cogent ideas and statements. I blame Twitter for much of this problem in our society; what I don’t comprehend is how people don’t seem to understand that once put into the Internet atmosphere, it eventually is seen by the wrong set of eyes and trouble always follows.
So I offer these suggested guidelines for whoever mans the Mgotalk Twitter accounts, starting Aug. 31 when UM meets Central Michigan in Michigan Stadium.
Please don’t act, or write, as if you are a half-drunk idiot at some Columbus bar. Mgotalk supporters and followers should be a better lot than that.
And in the (revised) words of anchorman Ron Burgundy, “Stay classy Wolverines!” Think before you tweet and if it sounds idiotic to you, it will appear that way to the thousands who eventually read that bit of 144-character prose.
Be a leader; not a Tweety Bird! Carry such a policy into your daily life; you’ll earn more respect.
Go Blue!

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