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Here at the five year anniversary of Twitter, perhaps it's time to have a talk about this emerging form of communication.

But first, an anecdote:

I have a very distinct memory of sitting in the passenger seat with my mother in the driver seat, cruising down the highway after she had picked me up from ballet practice. I had just finished uttering one of the very thoughtless things teenagers often say when she stopped me and said, "You have to think before you speak."

Of course, I was resentful and angry at the time, but now I am grateful that my mother taught me to be more considerate of others and to apply an edit function to my thoughts. Not every opinion, she reasoned, needs to be said out loud.

Out loud. In the brave new world of social media, social networking, a world in which hundreds, if not thousands, even millions follow their friends and celbrities on Twitter, perhaps it's time for the same etiquette lesson my mother taught me - only updated for the new millenium:

Think before you speak. Think before you tweet.

Last week, comedian Gilbert Gottfried was fired as the voice of the Aflac duck for tweeting in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami: "They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them." And this gem: "I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, 'They'll be another one floating by any minute now.'"

50 Cent piled on, tweeting: "Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoess from LA, Hawaii and Japan." Their insensitivity is astounding - especially when their leadership with their followers could have encouraged economic support to help those in need - rather than mocking the situation and those affected by it.

The list of Twitter infractions is nearly infinite: Mark Cuban was fined for complaining about NBA referees; Courtney Love was sued for defamation due to her conflict with clothing designer Dawn Simorangkir - all complaints posted on Twitter; Chrysler contractor Scott Bartosiewicz was fired for posting an insult about Detroit drivers along with a profane expletive - on the Chrysler brand's official account.

Add to this list the celebrities who are in legal trouble related to drug and alcohol problems. The twitter vomiting of such stars as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan only serves to further their self-incrimination while also tainting their image with fans.

From Kanye West's rant about "gold diggin' b------" and "abortions" to Scott Baio's criticims of the first lady ("Wow He wakes up to this every morning"), entertainers have damaged themselves and their careers by believing every thought that pops into their heads should be announced on Twitter. Sometimes I wonder if they realize that anyone can see their Tweets, they're not just making a comment at the dinner table.

As the character Erica (Rooney Mara) says in The Social Network, "The Internet isn't written in pencil. It's written in ink." And those tweets - written in ink - reveal an awful lot about the character of the tweeter. Wouldn't it be nice if some of these folks worked on their character instead of their twittering?

A girl can dream, can't she?

April 2011

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