I followed Alec Baldwin on Twitter because he is a funny guy who is not afraid to let his true opinions be known and I found that refreshing and entertaining. And, did I mention he is funny? In my last post, I wrote about how social media is a tool that empowers people to connect with one another and bring about worldwide action practically overnight, as evidenced by the explosion of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But upon learning that my favorite SNL host cancelled his Twitter account following an incident with American Airlines, I got to thinking that the immediacy and extent of reach social media offers is not always a good thing.
In case you haven’t heard, the Emmy-award winner apparently refused to stop playing a game called Words With Friends on his mobile device and turn it off when asked to by a flight attendant. Since the flight was about to depart, he was kicked off and had to board a new flight a little later. Here are some of the tweets he fired off during the incident:
“Flight attendant on American reamed me out 4 playing WORDS W FRIENDS while we sat at the gate, not moving. #nowonderamericaairisbankrupt.”
“But, oddly, 30 Rock plays inflight on American. #theresalwaysunited”
“Now on the 3 o’clock American flight. The flight attendants already look…..smarter.”
#theresalwaysunited Last flight w American. Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950’s find jobs as flight attendants”
Here is the retaliation from American Airlines via its Facebook page:
“Since an extremely vocal customer has publicly identified himself as being removed from an American Airlines flight on Tuesday, Dec. 6, we have elected to provide the actual facts of the matter as well as the FAA regulations which American, and all airlines, must enforce. This passenger declined to turn off his cell phone when asked to do so at the appropriate time. The passenger ultimately stood up (with the seat belt light still on for departure) and took his phone into the plane’s lavatory. He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed…The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language. Given the facts above, the passenger was removed from the flight and denied boarding.”
And finally just for fun, here what Baldwin’s publicist tweeted as a response:
“hey @American_AA: How come ok 4 other 1st class passengers 2 tweet while @alecbaldwin asked to leave while using his device? #hypocrisy.”
It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong here. The point is that somehow the need to vent and get revenge makes people forget that their audience is made up of real people, and messages cannot be deleted from cyberspace once that send button is pressed. Another example of the use (or abuse?) of social media for this destructive purpose can be found in the article, “Hilariously Awkward Facebook Interactions,” that I originally found on Mashable. While I have to admit to cracking up while reading these, when I got to the last one, my jaw dropped and I was kind of cringing (in case my Dad reads this, you will have to find the details of the FB post I am referencing by clicking on the link.) Had this disgruntled teenager, pre-Facebook, decided to take revenge on his sister in a similar manner, he would maybe have had to go about it like this: sneak out of his house (remember he was punished), go to the nearest library (if it was still open – no 24 hr. Kinkos back then) to photocopy the letter he found containing his sister’s private, shall we call it “love thoughts?”, then wake up the next day and stand in front of her school handing out copies of it while saying something like, “My sister is a slut. Read on.” I know slightly crazy, short-tempered, childish people out there exist but maybe, just maybe, the lapse in time and face-to-face effort involved would have caused this kid to realize his plan for revenge was a bad idea. Or, maybe he would have revealed his sinister plan to a friend the night before, who would have convinced him that punching her was a better idea.
People saying and doing dumb things, and fighting and blabbering about it to anyone that will listen are nothing new. But, whether you are a celebrity or random high school kid, using social media to vent and extract revenge, well, you might want to think about it for a half-second first.
P.S. Alec Baldwin posted his side of the story on The Huffington Post if you’re interested: My Flying Lesson.