The Power of Leadership

Executive Vitality™: Is Tweeting Healthy?

Executive Vitality™: Is Tweeting Healthy?Quite a bit has been written about the negative correlation between mental/physical health and social media use. We were particularly interested in what experts are saying about Twitter. One writer observes: “On even the most ambitious newscast, you would only ever be exposed to a fraction of the stories—depressing, humorous, and otherwise—that you’ll see on Twitter in the span of 10 minutes. Rapid-fire social media overload is like a series of quick concussive blows to the head, where everything is flattened into a gray gruel of information, and nothing stands out.” The argument is that our brains were not set up to process information in this manner and at this rate. This, of course, speaks to the effect on the reader of Tweets. But what about the one who Tweets?

Tweeting when you are stressed is almost worse than emailing when you are angry, or at least as bad. Leaders, especially, need to be excruciatingly aware that their own “Tweeting” style matters. Think about those who are overwhelmed by the need to Tweet and read other people’s Tweets? If your workforce is stopping what they are doing to read your Tweets, don’t you want to be sure they carry a powerful message that represents your corporate values and personal beliefs?

To effectively utilize Twitter as a communication tool, executives need to understand their own “relationship” with Tweets to avoid mishaps. It should go without saying … bad things can happen when any communication tool is used under pressure/stress. Uber’s CEO recently learned the hard way how to destroy months of hard work with a single insulting Tweet. T-Mobile and Sprint CEOs have also made a name for themselves in the Twitter hall of shame.

Another reason this level of Twitter awareness is so important is that too much of a good thing typically turns bad. Whether people are subject to Tweeting addiction, Tweeting paranoia, or Tweeting compulsion, there is no question that Twitter must be managed carefully in the workplace.

The list of CEOs, celebrities, and politicians who have gotten into twit-trouble[1] is long. It isn’t just Dara Khosrowshahi (Uber CEO) and John Legere (T-Mobile CEO)—Elon Musk (Tesla CEO) has caused himself a world of hurt with his Tweets; Roseanne Barr is another celebrity famous for unraveling her life’s work with a Tweet … and Donald Trump also keeps Twitter in the forefront of people’s minds.

We are thinking, maybe Tweeting is just too easy. How does anyone think kneejerk, fast, unfiltered messages are a good thing? For leaders with limited impulse control, it is a disaster waiting to happen. If a leader has thin skin and perceives that she or he has been insulted, it is too easy to slap back in reaction on Twitter. Thin skin is often cited as a cause of so-called Tweet-storms. “Skin of gossamer” is a phrase from “Why Is Elon Musk So Bad at Twitter?” Musk admitted to being under immense pressure. Sadly, his Tweets have only served to magnify the pressure on him—by causing an SEC investigation, shareholder lawsuits, and the ire of his board.

Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool in the right situation and if used appropriately. But it can also massively backfire. See this month’s Leadership Effectiveness article – Is Tweading* Leading?

If tempted to Tweet, consider doing the following:

  • If you think a Tweet should be sent out immediately—for whatever reason—such as Dara K. being faced with the accident of the self-driving Uber in Arizona. First of all: check your assumption. Does it actually have to go out NOW? Or is there time to carefully craft a full and intentional message?
  • If it really should go out NOW, engage some help in writing, or at a minimum, reviewing the message.
  • Consider if there is a better communication medium to use.
  • Think about the permanence of whatever is said. Sure, Tweets, can be deleted, but often not before the message has been picked up and disseminated by other means.

What does this have to do with executive vitality?

Healthy communication leads to feeling good about what we have said and done, or at least not feeling bad. At the end of the day, effective communication will lower our stress and the stress of those around us. Such communication leads to a feeling of optimism, pride, and well-being, as opposed to guilt, escalating anger, or regret, and the desire to take our words back.

Do you often or ever regret comments you posted on Twitter or other social media? Do leaders in your organization ensure that their communications and that of their teams reflect due consideration of an issue rather than impulse?

Citations:

  1. https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/health/a13083796/twitter-mental-health/
  2. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/185/3/203/2915143
  3. https://www.salon.com/2018/06/03/why-is-elon-musk-so-bad-at-twitter/

Footnotes

[1] Twit-trouble definition: behaving badly on Twitter. (Source:  coined for this article.)

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