Dr. Phil recently had to deal with a Twitter controversy. Photo/Getty Images

Opinion: Twitter is a dangerous place, Dr. Phil

It is getting all too common.

The profile of a famous personality tweets. The profile regrets the tweet. The profile panics, deletes the tweet, and thinks all is well.

Not knowing that pretty much everything posted on the Internet can be captured, people with screen grab apps snap a photo of the tweet and within hours, you have a news story.

The list is never-ending: Justin Bieber. Ricky Gervais. Oprah. Eva Longoria. And of course, that Weiner guy running for mayor of New York.

This week, Dr. Phil got into Twitter trouble when his official Twitter profile tweeted the following: “If a girl is drunk, is it okay to have sex with her. Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused.”

The online response, as expected, was insane. By Wednesday, Dr. Phil had to issue a statement. A petition was created for a more public apology. There was outrage. There was indignation.

As if this is all shocking?

Let’s break it down for a minute. Was the tweet problematic? Yes. Was the actual question troubling as well? Of course. And technically, Dr. Phil’s Twitter profile never actually apologized. The profile just deleted the tweet and issued a public relations statement.

Parade magazine’s digital etiquette writer Steven Petrow said it best when he told The Washington Post: “Deleting a tweet is not an apology. And if that’s the thing you’re attempting to do, you need to make an apology.”

Deleting the tweet does nothing. It does not signify remorse or regret. It just means that you are trying to ignore the issue and the mistake.

Maybe it is just me, because having been on Twitter since 2008, I still don’t get how so many high-powered profiles continue to act like social media novices. Let’s just assume that Dr. Phil’s people wanted to ask the online question via Twitter. Their mistake was that they never maximized the 140 character limits.

Imagine, for example, if Dr. Phil’s profile did this instead:

“Today’s poll is a bit controversial. Let us know what you think of this statement: ‘If a girl is drunk, is it okay to have sex with her.’”

Would people still be as outraged if it were framed this way? Maybe, but at least the tweet gives people a bit more context, a bit more explanation. Remember: Twitter is not a context-friendly place and in fact, if you aren’t careful enough, it can be the most dangerous online place ever.

And seriously, Dr. Phil’s social media people? Not tweeting an apology was a bigger mistake than deleting the tweet. Would it have been that hard to do this:

“I am truly sorry for sharing such a dumb and insensitive tweet. My bad. I goofed. Thanks to everyone who let me know.”

And then follow up with this?

“I read your critiques and comments, and you are all right. I have learned to think before I tweet.”

This is the double-edged sword of social media. If done right, it opens up a whole new world and audience. If done wrong, it can cause unnecessary headaches.

To avoid the headaches, just be yourself. Respond with grace and respond quickly. Be honest and when you mess up, admit it. Don’t hide behind “damage control” statements. In the end, a simple honest tweet understanding your mistake and asking for forgiveness is all you need. You would be surprised that most people on Twitter are human. Dr. Phil and his people should act more like that.

julio-nbc-final (1)

Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond.  In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the NationNPRUnivisionForbes, and The New York Times.


  1. Reblogged this on Franky Benítez and commented:

    My latest for NBC Latino

%d bloggers like this: