Is Twitter Making Us Dumber? No More Than Usual

If you've been hearing about Twitter in the news this week, you probably think people are just getting dumber and dumber.

They are, but Twitter is not to blame.

One year after Anthony Weiner retired from the U.S. Congress after tweeting photos of his namesake to different women who were not his wife, two more celebrities are making the news because of Twitter.

Rapper Ervin McKinness, better known as "Inkyy" to his fans, died in a car accident just moments after tweeting "Drunk af going 120 drifting corners #F***It. YOLO."

His final tweet was one minute later, reading: "Driving tweeting sipping the cup f*** yolo I'm turning it up."

YOLO means "You Only Live Once," which McKinness did, after the driver — not McKinness — lost control of the car and hit a wall before flipping the car and landing in the back yard of a home. McKinness and three other passengers all died at the scene. A fifth passenger died later at the hospital.

While many people have blamed McKinness for the accident, police believe he is most likely not the driver. But it's a tragic ending to a promising life and career.

While Twitter may have been the way McKinness communicated what was probably the cause of his death, Twitter is not to blame for it any more than it's to blame for Allison Pill's "tech issues."

Pill, one of the stars of HBO's "Newsroom," inadvertently tweeted a topless photo of herself to her 16,000 Twitter followers, when she meant it to go only to her fiancé, Jay Baruchel, the voice of Hiccup in "How to Train Your Dragon." She deleted the photo immediately, but it was still saved and quickly shared online, going viral in a matter of minutes.

But rather than blaming hackers, like Weiner did, Pill took it all in stride. She then tweeted, "Yep. That picture happened. Ugh. My tech issues have now reached new heights, apparently. How a deletion turned into a tweet... Apologies."

I've never admitted to being a technical wizard, but I do know the difference between the "delete" button and the "tweet" button. I also know better than to take naked photos of myself.

Instead, I do like Paris Hilton and hire a professional.

Baruchel wasn't upset by the incident though. He tweeted, "My fiancée is an hilarious dork. Smartphones will get ya."

I won't quibble about Baruchel's erroneous use of "an" in front of "hilarious," because he didn't freak out about the slip-up. Neither did Pill. There may have been some private wailing and gnashing of teeth, but her acceptance of blame and willingness to laugh at herself means this story will die quickly, rather than leading to a major scandal.

As a social media professional, I often meet people who refuse to use it because they don't want to inadvertently make terrible mistakes like this. They're worried they'll tweet a private message to their entire network. Or they'll post inappropriate photos on Facebook.

There's a simple solution to it all: don't take naked photos of yourself or your anatomy in the first place.

And if you're stupid enough to do that, don't send it to anyone over the phone.

And if you're stupid enough to do that, please oh PLEASE learn the difference between Twitter and everything else on your phone.

I don't see what's so hard about it. It takes half a second of concentration. Look at the button you're about to press to make sure it's the right one. Then, before you press send, make sure the message is going to the right person.

People make mistakes. I have inadvertently sent emails to the wrong person, or put a person's name into a Facebook status update instead of the search box. But I have also made sure that if I'm sending important information, I take a couple of seconds to see that I'm not sending it to the wrong person.

Just remember, Twitter is not the problem. It hasn't made people stupid or caused them to do inappropriate things. Twitter did not make McKinness and his friends drink and drive. It didn't make Pill tweet a naked photo of herself to her fiancé. And Twitter certainly did not make Anthony Weiner take photos of his junk and send them to other women.

That's just the type of people they already were. The technology only made it possible for them to tell other people about their poor decision making skills. And show the world their privates.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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