Another social media lesson learned the hard way

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Social media sites are a double-edged sword, especially for their more frequent and cavalier users.

They serve as an important information-sharing tool, allowing participants to share news quickly and effortlessly with a wide audience.

On the flip-side, these sites provide a platform for spewing unfiltered thoughts and opinions at will, a freedom that can do more harm than good.

The latest victim of social media self-destruction is Greg Featherston, 36, Texas Christian University’s former assistant athletic director.

Last week Featherston used his personal Facebook page to share commentary about Texas A&M’s stadium renovation, which includes a reverent homage to 12 students who were killed in 1999 when the school’s bonfire collapsed on its builders. Twenty-seven more students were injured, some severely.

Two of the victims were from Tarrant County, Jerry Don Self of Arlington and Chad Powell of Keller.

The bonfire, a long-practiced and somewhat perplexing A&M tradition, was a school-sponsored event up until the collapse. It preceded the autumn game with arch-rival, University of Texas.

Featherston was a student at UT when the tragedy occurred.

On his Facebook page, Featherston, re-posted a message that he says he did not write “but could have,” which callously suggested that the school would never have honored the deceased students had the number of victims not coincidentally matched the school’s 12th man tradition.

As is all too common among the purveyors of vicious school rivalries, smack-talk and bluster devolve into offensive and tasteless exchanges far too quickly.

Before the advent of social media, these comments — however inappropriate — would be relegated to the stadium, quickly said and then forgotten.

But now, all manner of inappropriate commentary is preserved on the Internet and shared before its authors have the opportunity to consider the consequences.

Featherston should have guessed that the remarks would be perceived by his employer as crossing the line of propriety, especially given their sensitive subject matter.

And TCU, in accepting his resignation, is not at fault for wanting to quickly diffuse the controversy.

It is far from a certainty that Featherston’s careless action will be career-ending. It even seems a shame that it should be.

But it’s a useful reminder that in a world where we have the unprecedented ability to share our thoughts at will, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.

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