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Editor's column: How tweet it is

October 8, 2011
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

How do you get in someone's face without actually getting in their face? How do you make fun of someone without fear of them punching you in the face? How do you have a face-to-face debate with someone without having to smell their breath?

Simple. Just tweet. Face not required.

For those who don't know, "tweet" is a verb, and a popular one. It's not in the dictionary yet, but be patient, it will be. Tweeting is a branch of the ever-growing social media tree - heavy on the social. It's a way to communicate your thoughts, opinions, excitement, frustration, anger, and predictions electronically in short bursts. So short, in fact, that you don't even have to know how to spell or put a sentence together. Talk about the degradation of the English language. Example: "cu all @ party 2nite! dont 4gt!"

Twitter is touted as a communications tool that can put you in touch with just about anyone (they're called followers). Get enough followers and you have yourself a community.

You might be asking, "What's the point?" Fair question. There really is no point. It's just supposed to be a cute way to "talk" to people, even those you don't know. Especially those you don't know. And, in a world where the letters "i" and "e" are used more as a prefix than a vowel, tweeting, like most things Internet, has staying power. In fact, Twitter handles about 140 million tweets every day.

Twitter, which turned 5 years old in March, can be a beneficial media tool. You can follow the Independent on Twitter at IndependentMN, and thousands of other dailies across the country have Twitter accounts as well.

But tweeting can backfire, too.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of professional athletes tweet all the time and some of them get themselves into trouble. See, athletes have a propensity to be outspoken and say whatever the heck they want without pause. They have big mouths. According to, more than 4,400 pro athletes currently tweet. One of them, New England receiver Chad OchoCinco, has nearly 3 million followers. And that's just the way he likes it. Athletes love attention and OchoCinco knows the more outrageous tweets he puts out there, the more attention he'll get. Tweeting has become such a powerful device that major TV networks like ESPN and CNN even use tweets as a source of news. Note to aspiring journalists if there are any out there: Tweets are not interviews. And the word "tweet" itself can deface even the most credible journalists and make them sound silly. Can you hear Cronkite? "From Dallas, Texas, the tweet apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time " No, that wouldn't happen; Cronkite would never say "tweet" on the air.

Athletes are free to say what they want, but are finding themselves getting into trouble doing it, or at the very least, giving themselves a bad name. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall lost his endorsement deal from Champion earlier this year for tweeting his doubts that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by hijacked jetliners and for expressing his sentiments that we had "only heard one side" of the Osama Bin Laden story. He backed off from the tweets, but by then, it didn't matter, he had already burned himself.

Minnesota Vikings receiver made news this past week when he responded to criticism from state Rep. Jim Kriesel, who ripped on a previous tweet by an underperforming Berrian, who complained about not getting more passes thrown his way. Berrian, instead of being a pro and just letting it slide, jabbed back at Kriesel and told him to "sit down n shut up!!" Of course Berrian had no way of knowing Kriesel lost his legs while serving in Iraq - that just made it way worse - but Berrian should know better than to let criticism phase him to the point where he fires back.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was tossed from a game in April for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Todd Tichenor in the first inning of Chicago's game at Yankee Stadium. A manager getting ejected is no big deal, in fact, it's part of what makes baseball baseball. But then he tweeted about it, saying the ejection was pathetic, thus violating baseball's media policy that is supposed to prevent managers and players from disparaging umpires.

My question is, what's the upside of athletes tweeting? Too often, tweeters just end up making fools of themselves like Berrian did. The moral of the story: If you don't have anything nice to tweet, don't tweet anything at all.



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