There was an internet joke a few years back about what to do in the case of an emergency. Printed on t-shirts, and popping up on shows like Parks and Recreation and American Dad, it goes like this: If I die, please delete my browser history.
The reality is, when someone dies, we usually cut them slack. It’s when we don’t die, when we excel in life, that things get tricky. There needs to be an update to the trope: If I suddenly become famous, delete my Twitter account.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo could’ve used a friend at the killswitch last night, as he powered the Wildcats to a victory over Michigan in the NCAA Championship, scoring 31 points, and winning the game’s Most Outstanding Player award. It was truly a heroic performance and the game of his life. Unfortunately, the relatively unknown player also won the night’s Milkshake Duck award, when Twitter sleuths uncovered a series of offensive and bizarre tweets he’d posted to his account years ago.
DiVincenzo, it should be said, is 21 years old, and thus was between 13- and 15-years-old when he posted many of the tweets in question, including using the n-word and f-word in posts. The question of whether spelunking through the social media of suddenly famous people from when they were young teens is a worthwhile use of our time as a culture is a good one, but this is simply the reality we inhabit now. You’d have better luck asking the tide not to come in. There are far worse things being said online every day about a group of teenagers from Parkland, and all they’ve done is said maybe we shouldn’t have to get shot in school so much.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
With that in mind, there are a few things people like DiVincenzo, who find themselves thrust into the spotlight, or even just the rest of us as a general precaution, should always keep in mind.
1. Never tweet.
Just don’t do it. Whatever benefit you might derive in the moment from the dopamine rush of sharing your thoughts online and being rewarded for them with likes simply is not worth it. For some of us with broken brain disease, it’s already too late, but you don’t have to succumb to it if you haven’t already.
Best case scenario: you might claw your way to being moderately internet famous for telling jokes for free all day to make a tech company wealthy. Worst case scenario: you tweet your way out of a job, even if you’re already a powerful person, like Laura Ingraham has nearly done.
2. If you must tweet, here’s what you cannot say.
There really aren’t very many rules about free speech, despite what the constantly-aggrieved center rightists like Jonathan Chait, Bari Weiss, and Andrew Sullivan might tell you. But for some, there are, in fact, a very small and reasonable handful of things you should not say out loud or post online, or even think really, and they are the n-word and the f-word.
Yes, DiVincenzo was very young at the time, and appeared to be quoting a Meek Mill song when he tweeted: “Ballin on these n**** like I’m derrick rose!”, but, speaking as a straight white guy, it’s not my place to give him a pass for it. (The Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team learned this lesson the hard way themselves recently.) This seems like a very easy concession to make.
3. Be ready to hit the eject button.
DiVincenzo probably had other things on his mind last night than posts he made six years ago, but it might be a good idea for people to keep their head on a swivel. If you suddenly sense yourself rising to prominence—whether it’s a feat of athletic prowess on a national stage, or simply showing up on the local news as a hero for saving a cat from a sewer or whatever—your second thought, after, “wow this is great!”, needs to be: Shit.
If you followed the first two steps, you won’t need to even worry about this one. But evidence has shown us that’s simply not going to be how it works. Instead, here’s what you do: Much like you would have an executor for your will, or someone listed as your contact in case of a medical emergency, hand over your passwords to one trusted friend. When you sense yourself leveling up into a Milkshake Duck, give them the signal and they know what to do. It’s like you were never even here.