Maybe Life Doesn’t Need to Be One Giant Game of Gotcha

There is now a generation of adults who grew up with access to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

A lot of these adults posted ignorant things on these platforms when they were young because, as I point out in my print column today, kids are dumb.

I am hoping the silver lining in all that is a decline in these sort of stories in the future.

At the link, you’ll learn about Carson King. He’s a dude from Iowa who held up a sign asking for beer money in the background of an ESPN broadcast. His tongue-in-cheek plea went viral. He ended up getting a lot of money. Anheuser-Busch (makers of his beer of choice) and Venmo (the service he was using to receive donations) promised to match his donation when he announced he’d be giving the money to a children’s hospital.

But then the Des Moines Register decided to do a profile on King. In it, they mentioned some ugly, racially insensitive posts he’d made to Twitter the better part of a decade ago when he was 16 years old.

That prompted Anheuser-Busch to cut ties with King, though they’ll still make their donation.

Many feel the inclusion of King’s teenage social media shenanigans was unnecessary. The resulting backlash against the reporter responsible for the story uncovered some pretty terrible Twitter posts of his own. “Between 2010 and 2013, [Aaron] Calvin published tweets that used a racist slur for black people, made light of abusing women, used the word ‘gay’ as a pejorative and mocked the legalization of same-sex marriage by saying he was ‘totally going to marry a horse’,” the Washington Post reports.

Reporters who go trolling for embarrassing social media posts to play “gotcha” with had better be sure their own hands are clean in that regard.

Speaking of gotcha, is it perhaps time to move past this sort of thing?

The Des Moines Register is defending their editorial decision to include King’s past tweets in their story. And, for what it’s worth, King doesn’t exactly have hard feelings about it. He’s a stand-up dude, as you might expect from someone who donated a whole bunch of money to a good cause when he didn’t have to:

Still, there seems to be a big streak of nihilism running through our society in this very online, very populist age. There is a very large faction of the population, running the gamut from professional journalists down to idiot trolls, who see everyone else as a target. It doesn’t matter if you’re a public figure or not. If you’re getting notoriety for doing something they don’t like – or, like in King’s case, just doing something – you must be embarrassed and destroyed.

These online mobs, even the well-intentioned ones, aren’t good for our society.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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