Why do smart people say stupid things on Twitter?

It appears to happen every day.  Someone in the public eye — whether a successful businessperson, politician, entertainer or other — sends out a 140-character tweet and within minutes tries to delete it because of the backlash it causes.  More than one smart, public figure has lost his/her job or come under intense criticism for using social media to vent, and not first using their brain.

When Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired, Trump advisor Michael Caputo tweeted: “Ding dong the witch is dead!”  Hours later he was gone as well.

When Justine Sacco, corporate communications chief for InterActive Corp tweeted:  “Going to Africa.  Hope I don’t get AIDS.  Just kidding.  I’m White!” upon boarding a flight to Africa, was fired before her plane landed on the continent.

How can people, especially PR, and communications strategists who are supposed to be so savvy, be so stupid to say these things on Twitter?  Not to mention how can they think them at all?

The motto for everybody, whether in the public eye or not, is to be extra cautious with everything you put in writing.  Even former Secretary of State Clinton felt a sense of security with her private email server, and we’re seeing how that has worked out.

That’s why more and more people are using that thing called the telephone.  If you don’t want your words to come back and haunt you — the best thing is to not say them at all.  If you must say something in total confidence, use the telephone.

Twitter is one thing, because the user intends for it to be public.  But emailing is another.  Email has become our primary source of communication and people use it with a sense of confidentiality and security.  What more people should realize is that once something is put in an email, that record can be forwarded to others, or attached to a string of communications unintentionally.

The lesson here is common sense.  If you’re going to tweet or email, never do it in the heat of the moment.  If you need to get something off your chest, first take a few hours to cool off.  Chances are you will realize that lashing out in public or in writing will often do more harm to you than the person(s) you are venting at.