Blog | Apr 22, 2011 | 8 Comments

[language!]

[debating social media profanity]

Last month, the blogosphere came unglued over the firing of a social media agency whose employee who used the “F” word in a tweet from the Chrysler Twitter account. This has sparked a lively debate about the use of profanity in social media.

I “LMAO” when I read the offending tweet.

It’s a little rant about Chrysler’s home town that would have been inappropriate even without the F word.

I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f______ drive.

I don’t know the order in which everything took place, but Chrysler reportedly deleted the tweet, though it had probably already been retweeted (forwarded) all around the world. They also fired the agency and the agency terminated their employee. Chrysler also issued a public apology:

Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication… Furthermore, the Company has set in place appropriate steps to ensure that this does not happen again.

This whole incident buzzed around the social media airwaves for a long time. (Read Mashable’s article here.) But one of the lasting repercussions is a little side debate about profanity in social media.

To swear or not to swear, that is the question.

I regularly read bloggers who use profanity. Jay Dolan of TheAntiSocialMedia has a weekly post called F#$& You Friday. Erika Napoletano of RedHeadWriting has a regular feature called The Bitch Slap. Their rants are clever and pointed and I almost always agree with both of them.

Jay had this to say about the Chrysler situation and the debate over “foul” language in general:

I know that brands and companies shouldn’t be swearing. That’s just asking for trouble. But people are different. People swear in the real world, and they swear a lot…Knowing how and when to use each of your words is what makes someone a great communicator…Great ideas are not always expressed in ten-cent words but four-letter ones…It’s all a matter of choice and timing.

Deborah Ng of Kommein a taken issue with profanity (and sexual innuendo) in several of her blogs, including Why B**ch Isn’t a Selling Point and  Is Social Media Causing Us to Lose Our Professionalism?

I’m no prude, but when did things like excessive swearing or innuendo become acceptable conversation and business practice simply because it suits a blogger’s personality? Also, when did we stop thinking about the tone and words we use when getting a point across?…I’m told blogging is a casual form of conversation and social media allows us to be ourselves, but it seems to me that this might be causing us to lose our professionalism to a certain extent.

Deb questions the value of negativity in general and she has a good point. Too many bloggers are playing on FUD (Fear-Uncertainty-Dread). Their attitudes are competitive or even combative, and totally discouraging. If I read one more blog post that says, “Why your content sucks,” I’m going to blow a head gasket.

Disclosure: I use plenty of bad language in my private life.

Some of the readers of this blog know me very well and would call me out if I didn’t admit this. But I honestly try not use (much) profanity in my professional life, and most of my social media exposure is professional. Even a fair number of my Facebook friends are colleagues or former co-workers.

You just never know who you’re going to offend.

What do you think? Weigh in here in the comments section.

Photo credit: christopherdale on flickr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

8 Comments

Sometimes a good F bomb is the best way to get a point across. That said, I try, I REALLY try, not to use this language on social media or in my blog posts. I’ve only failed a couple times 🙂

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Cheryl, you are always funny and on-point, whatever language you choose.

[Reply]

Cheryl Harrison

4/22/2011

This is all so subjective and really it’s a bit hypocritical because most of us DO use profanity in our spoken language. I have the vocabulary of a sailor, but I don’t trot it out for public consumption. That, I believe, is rather the point. Yes we all use foul language from time to time, but, and I hate to be crude, we all defecate as well and I seriously hope it does not become socially acceptable to do that anywhere we damn well please… 😉

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Well, Tracy, when you put it that way…nothing like a good analogy to put things in perspective.

[Reply]

Tracy

4/22/2011

I have two thoughts about this (well, at least, two cogent thoughts):

1) No matter how careful you are, your ability to get across your REAL intention in writing vs. getting it across in person is NEVER as predictable. I’ve written what I thought were very clear things to people who certainly took them the wrong way. Gestures, eye contact, tone, timing, etc. all contribute to the meaning in person and are lost in writing. Using profanity increases the risk of misinterpretation. Just sayin…

2) My dear departed Mother used to say “If you use the “F” word for anything at anytime, what are you going to use when you are stuck in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge with a flat tire?” As usual, I think she was right about this. Thanks again Mom.

Lisa

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Lisa, you know how much I loved your wise and funny Mom! She had a good point.

[Reply]

Lisa Hettler-Smith

4/23/2011

F**k NO!!! At least leave me my four letter words! It’s the only thing left in this world that remains truly, uniquely MINE – lol!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Heck yeah! ;D

[Reply]

DCW

4/24/2011

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