Don't Let Twitter Ruin Your Life

As someone who is hyper aware of identity construction and branding, I spend a good deal of time thinking about how I present myself online. I'm extremely cautious about what I post, carefully weighing the pros and cons of every sound bite of my life. If something doesn't feel right a few moments after I posted it, I'll delete it. While we all know that the internet is forever, at least I have a chance to alter posts that don't fit with my vision or image.

How to Manage Your Image on Social Media

However, not everyone has this same luxury.

Jon Ronson of

The New York Times

wrote an article

that examined the lives of people who were"ruined" because of insensitive and poorly thought out tweets. Justine Saccos is Ronson's primary example of regrettable tweets gone horribly wrong. After tweeting a racist comment that was intended to be satirical, Saccos's tweet was picked up and retweeted to a larger audience, basically going viral. As a result, Saccos ended up losing her job and becoming a social pariah.

In an effort to prevent this sort of conundrum happening to others, I thought I'd share my rules for posting content online while maintaining and be true to my constructed identity.

  1. Audit your content: My first thought after reading Ronson's piece was to audit my own Twitter feed. Although the good deal of my tweets are industry related, I do include my personal musings and things related to my hobbies (e.g., fashion, British Royal Family, etc.). In theory, potential followers will often look at your past tweets to develop an understanding of the content you're posting. While you can't permanently delete a tweet from history, you can certainly audit your content to more closely align with your brand or personal identity, hopefully engaging more like-minded followers in the future. 
  2. Don't use polarizing hashtags: This may be one of Twitter-related problems I struggle with most. Certain hashtags such as #superwhitegirlproblems or #basic have the potential to be offensive to whomever is reading your tweet. While hashtags such as these are generally meant to create a conversation about stereotypes, these phrases or terms have the potential to be offensive or discriminatory to others. Unless you intend to brand yourself as someone who engages in hot button issues, avoid topics that may be misconstrued even if they're socially popular. 
  3. Ask yourself if this is what you want to be remembered for: Such as was the case for Saccos, her one tweet essentially has defined who she is and her relationship with the world for the rest of her life. I think it's important to realize the potential of your tweet being picked up and circulated to a massive audience that could define you and measure your future actions by this tweet. If you're worried that a tweet may negatively affect your image in the future, refrain from posting it. 

For more ideas on identity creation online, leave a comment or tweet me at 

@Sarah_M_Walsh.