Steve Dahl is a well known radio talk show host in my home town of Chicago. He had a theory about time and distance related to comments and jokes. The farther you are away from a difficult moment or event in life, either in time or distance, the sooner you feel free to respond with jokes or comments that may be controversial.
For example, if something happens overseas in France, Korea, or Brazil, off-color comments will start up sooner than if that same disaster happened in your home town. Locally, the common courtesy is not to tell jokes for a period of time until days or weeks pass to avoid bad taste or begin a controversy.
In my last blog, I said tweeting was a good thing if you followed the right informative folks, especially in business, where companies you work with can provide information to help you succeed in your career or job. (See: To Tweet or Not To Tweet: That is the Question.)
The speed and power of tweeters was shown again to me this weekend. I first learned of the tragedy in Tucson by reading my tweets while out shopping. Sadly, a 22-year-old man shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head and killed at least six people, injuring many more.
As the day and night unfolded, I took note of the speed and quality of the tweet and retweet content from the folks I follow that was focused on the tragedy. Ninety eight percent of all “local” print, radio, online and TV journalists, bloggers, community leaders, and regular Arizona citizens I follow were focused on this event. One TV reporter tweeted that if you went to school with the shooter you should call her phone number. I saw her later that night talking to a few young people.
It was early in the evening before I noticed people saying basically that if you were not tweeting on this situation… “shut up.” Still, a few folks talked about how cool social media was and where they were eating and drinking. That alone helps me determine how stupid they are — in the old days I would say “they showed me their true colors.” Outsiders either did not care or did not dappreciate the issues involved.
Off the path a bit, I also, personally, did something like this on Christmas. I tweeted to my followers that they should not send any business and informative social media tricks on Christmas Day. Anyone who did needed to get a life and I would drop them, I threatened. I dropped two.
I learned that the time and distance theory still holds true in tweeting, which I indeed heeded. I was going to make a tweet about the NFL playoff results and a business comment but elected to wait at least 24 hours to get across those non-critical issues. If I lived farther away I would not have waited.
Thus, two lessons: Speed and power of tweeting was proven to me again — if you follow the right folks. And, in time and distance scenarios, if you have nothing to add, shut up. It's the best tweet etiquette.