Does the social web need Miranda?

james-andrewsIn today’s world, just about everyone involved in social media knows not to make a fool of yourself online. I say just about everyone because a lot of people still manage to make asses out of themselves anyway. From the Ketchum/FedEx fiasco in Mephis, TN to the minor ruckus involving techno-geek Robert Scoble on his birthday.

It is understandable for so-called social experts to come under fire for making statements that reflect poor judgment. However is it necessary to put up a facade? Do we need to hide behind a fake smile while true expression recedes like the tides? If you have ever been to Memphis you will know exactly what James Andrews was talking about. That place needs more than just a face lift.

“True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.’”

I know exactly what he is talking about. A former consultant of ours lived in Memphis for 6 months while on contract with one of our best clients. In that short period of time, he was robbed at gunpoint, twice, inside of his own apartment. Someone actually knocked on his door, then pointed a gun at him when he answered. This was not in a ‘bad’ part of town. He was an Oracle DBA consultant making decent wages. He left within 24 hours of the last incident, contract be damned. Can you blame him?

Does the social Internet need Miranda rights? Do social tools like twitter and Facebook need to include disclaimers?

“Warning:  future activities occurring upon our networks may jeopardize your sense of well being or future career prospects”

While we do need to be aware that anything we say can be used against us, or taken in the wrong context – where do we draw the line? Andrews did not attack his client. Nothing in that statement can possibly make Fedex as a company look bad. Nope not one iota. FedEx employees took this personally. They saw this as an attack on their culture, their environment. So much for southern hospitality.

James Andrews was there to coach FedEx on how to make good use of social media. Yeah he screwed the pooch alright. Nonetheless I can’t imagine him thinking that statement would blow up in his face. If FedEx wasn’t such a huge entity with thousands of employees in Memphis, there’s a pretty good chance that faux pas would have slipped under the radar. I would probably not have been as nice in my comments about the incident in Memphis.

What do you think? Is the socialization of business creating a modicum of thoughtless, corporate robots, trained to act a certain way? A world in which expression is dampered by what ifs, and seemingly victimless mishaps? I would love your input. Good or bad, just remember you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to twitter. Anything you say can be used against you by a tribunal of your peers.

Update 1/22/2009 I just read his wife’s response to the hype at funkidivagirl. James is indeed a lucky man to have such a caring and thoughtful wife by his side.