The Gilbert Arenas Twitter Lesson: Think Before You Tweet

NBA Twitter wizard Arenas and other celebs should think before social networking.

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By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

"Arenas spills his side on Twitter," reads the headline of a recent ESPN.com story on Gilbert Arenas of the NBA's Washington Wizards, with a subhead of "So much for keeping quiet." Following reports of a locker room gun incident between him and fellow Wizard Javaris Crittenton, Arenas let the world know, via Twitter, that "i wake up this morning and seen i was the new JOHN WAYNE. lmao media is too funny."

Arenas's joking about the gun incident, which has since led to his indefinite suspension, caused teammate JaVale McGee to call Arenas's tweets "reckless." His father, Gilbert Arenas Sr., told his son, "Don't even Tweeter right now."

And while Arenas's Twitter account is now canceled, bizarre tweets from celebrities and athletes are not unusual; in fact they may be the new norm.

"How do I be great when I'm out of work?" the Cincinnati Bengals' Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson) complained on Twitter about his team being out of the NFL playoffs, while also tweeting about how the level of disappointment (we can't use Ochocinco's actual language in this family-friendly blog) is akin to "finding out side girl is pregnant." Um, OK, if you say so.

Politicians, of course, are not immune to the potential pitfalls of Twitter. Last week, in what the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza called "part 4,786 in our continuing series entitled: "Why politicians shouldn't use Twitter," a Minnesota state senate candidate had to apologize for tweets in which he called President Barack Obama a "Power Hungry Angry Black Man" and asked "whats with the Dems and Pedophiles?" In apologizing, the candidate said it was "written in haste and out of the frustration."

No doubt that's true, whether it's a politician or a celebrity dealing with a media crisis or the disappointment of an unsuccessful postseason.

Twitter is a remarkable service that allows news of all sorts to be disseminated to the world--through one's individual networks--immediately. Indeed, White House correspondents use Twitter as a means of live-blogging Robert Gibbs's daily press conference. It also allows politicians and political organizations to get their message out to a wider audience.

While recognizing its value, public figures must also recognize Twitter can be a double-edged sword. The service allows users to post immediate, unchecked streams of consciousness that often do not include thinking before one speaks/tweets (when there is no staff or an agent to say, "You might not want to say that"), especially those written in haste or out of frustration. And by the time an errant tweet--essentially a 140-character press release--is posted, it's too late.

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