Penn State football coach and campus legend Joe Paterno was fired last night after failing to report a series of child abuses. Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s defensive coordinator, was arrested on charges of molesting eight boys who had been a part of a charity he had established for troubled youths. But despite knowledge of these crimes, Joe Paterno did nothing to bring them to light.
The board of 20 Trustees fired Joe Paterno just 3 games shy of his 46th season because “it was necessary to make a change in leadership and set a course in a new direction.” Being such an iconic figure in Penn State football, the campus was set ablaze and students and alumni alike moved to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to vent their frustrations and appraisals. Many plead with other Paterno supporters not to riot on campus.
Affectionately referred to as “Joe Pa,” he held an NCAA-record of 409 games and two national titles. Many throughout the world of college athletics had thought him untouchable and were fairly surprised that he was not allowed to say goodbye at the Nittany Lions’ final home game of the season.
As the news spread throughout social media sites and became viral, many key facts were left out. This omission of detail on sources like Twitter which limit “tweets” to 140 characters caused many to be unaware of the whole story. One such fan was Ashton Kutcher who tweeted, “How do you fire Joe Pa?” But once brought up on the situation as to why the coach was being let go, Ashton quickly deleted that tweet and instead tweeted:
For someone who has over 8 million followers and a reputation to uphold, this blunder was titanic.
But this case of overreacting on social media, without knowing all the facts, is not unique to this event. Social Media has changed our society and culture as it allows for instant communication. But this instantaneous medium is a double-edged sword. While allowing us to share ideas in real-time and around the globe, it also prompts instant reactions which are not constructive to the conversation. No longer do we take the time to think on an issue and do a little bit of research to figure out the context and all the facts surrounding it. Instead, when we see something that we disagree with on the surface, we respond immediately and sometimes forcefully; then move on to the next, never having taken the time to study the issue. This makes us look foolish and ignorant and contributes nothing productive to the conversation.
While social media presents a unique opportunity to communicate more effectively with each other, we should take the time to study the facts of an issue before succumbing to the temptation to tweet out a knee-jerk reaction.