TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

January 6, 2014

We should always think before we speak

CORBIN — The year 2013 was certainly full of good, bad and crazy news nationally.

There was a battle in Washington over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. There was a senseless bombing during the Boston Marathon on April 15. And it seemed like every other month there was a shooting or natural disaster.

But there was one story that broke just a couple of weeks ago that proved to be an interesting sign of the times.

Justine Sacco, who was the head of corporate communications for media company IAC, was in London, England about to depart for a vacation in South Africa.

Before her plane took off, Sacco took to the social network Twitter to send out a tweet that read, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Only 200 people were following her account before she made the tweet. But very soon after, Sacco and the tweet went viral.

Thousands of people began to follow her account, thousands retweeted the tweet, and many others sent her harsh messages in response.

The part that was even more bizarre was the fact that Sacco was in an airplane having no idea her tweet had created a media frenzy. She had no access to the Internet so she had no idea what was going on.

A few hours before she landed, a representative from IAC even issued a statement that addressed the online controversy. The company would go on to part ways with Sacco as a result of the tweet.

So folks all over the Internet were huddled around their computers and smart phones waiting to see what would happen when Sacco eventually landed in South Africa.

Sacco eventually landed, went on to delete her Twitter account and offered a public apology for being insensitive to AIDS victims and the citizens of South Africa.

This tweet was obviously very ignorant and a foolish thing to say. But it just goes to show you the power of the Internet and social media.

I will freely admit I have stuck my foot in my mouth on a number of occasions. Although I don’t think I’ve said anything as ridiculous as Sacco’s tweet.

Regardless, there have been plenty of times when I’ve wished I could have taken back something I said.

And now, in this day in age, it is so important we think before we stick our feet in our mouths.

A decade ago, this Sacco incident either doesn’t happen or is not a story because there weren’t too many ways for something to go viral.

But now, you can post a tweet or mention something on Facebook and it can possibly get seen by millions. So we have to choose our words wisely because they could have an impact on someone from the other side of the planet.

I stumbled upon a neat acronym online while I was researching this exact story that I think could serve as a nice reminder for all of us when it comes to thinking before we speak or act.

The word is THINK, and it reminds you to ask yourself, “Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?”

Chances are, if you answer “no” to any of those questions before you talk, you may be better off staying silent.

The Bible even tells us in Psalms 34:13, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” And Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

If we have something pleasant, kind or inspiring to say, we should by all means share it. Likewise, we should never waste a breath — or a tweet — on anything that could be viewed as evil or deceitful to others.

Justine Sacco’s tweet was unnecessary, insensitive and hurtful to many. She was punished and did the right thing by apologizing.

But in the year 2014, now perhaps more than ever, it is so important we think before we speak.

Brad Hall is the nighttime editor for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at bhall@thetimestribune.com. You can also visit his blog at hallthingsconsidered.blogspot.com

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