1. You might not get into the school you want or get the job you want; and you might get fired from the job you have.
Employers and schools take this kind of thing very seriously. Take 22-year old California-based genius Denise Helms, who posted a Facebook update stating “another four years of this nigger. maybe he will get assassinated this term.” She was promptly fired from her job at Coldstone Creamery.
Or take Michael Brutsch, also previously known as Violentacrez on Reddit. Brutsch moderated the Reddit forum Creepshots, which published sexualized pictures of unsuspecting girls in public. Creepshots garnered so much upset that Gawker outed his real identity. But it turns out he had also created the forums “Chokeabitch,” “Niggerjailbait,” “Rapebait,” and “Hitler,” among others. Brutsch was abruptly fired from his job at a financial services company in Texas, which had supported him and his family for a long time.
Don’t think that you are protected from consequences if you are under 18, either: Jezebel published the names of several teenagers who posted n-word laced Twitter comments about the POTUS. And Jezebel went even further than most media groups, contacting the school officials of all these kids, encouraging them to be reprimanded. Many of these people are also aspiring athletes, and now many of them will probably not get into their favorite colleges or professional organizations for these impulsive actions.
2. The government keeps tabs of those who publish violent political rhetoric.
You could become subject to investigation by the Secret Service. You will be placed on terrorist watch lists. And as also evidenced by the monthly person who thinks it’s a good idea to make a bomb joke at an airport, many out there don’t seem to understand that these statements are not taken lightly.
3. Your public/online record and reputation stay with you.
Did you know that Ann Coulter thinks that there’s no racism in America? As a result of this sort of denial, some take it upon them to note evidence of extreme racist rhetoric, just to prove a point that we really shouldn’t have to. And guess what? All it takes is for one well-trafficked blog to type your name and post a screenshot of your literary refuse, along with your Twitter handles, time stamped. And you can delete your tweets and deactivate your Facebook pages, but the records will remain public–up to, well, forever Unless you somehow manage to keep a job, become amazingly successful, and receive tons of positive publicity, all of the SEO For Dummies books in the world won’t help you go against the media that reveal you for the dummy that you are.
4. There is a growing movement against trolling and bullying.
Internet trolling is prevalent because it’s much easier to be cruel when enjoying the safety of an anonymous screen name. But from Anonymous’ vigilante justice against sexual harassers of young girls to increasingly tough stances on bullying in schools, we are seeing a collective movement against arbitrary interpersonal violence and vitriol. Even if you keep your identity concealed, if you behave horribly enough, someone will do some internet sleuthing to figure out who you are. They will post your shit all over the internet for everyone to know and use against you. And there area lot of other misguided people out there who wouldn’t mind spending their days prank calling you, throwing old spaghetti at your house, and sending you good old-fashioned, hand-written death threats.
5. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s just sad.
Yes, in a legal sense, you can say nearly anything you want on Twitter. But while the First Amendment may grant you the right to freedom of speech, that does not mean that your speech is unbound by consequences in social, family, or work domains, or in any other parts of your life. Organizations depend on public opinion, and that’s a big reason they have rules of conduct for their members. And if you want a job, or friends, or whatever, you should care about your reputation, too. Like Ann Coulter has demonstrated in light of her recent comments calling the president a “retard,” you might elicit offense, anger, and disgust, all for simply not being able to find words that actually mean something and that aren’t so hurtful. When you go onto a public forum and put your ugly innards on display for everyone to see, you can bet you’ll get disinvited from the big party.