For many, tweeting comes as naturally as breathing. No sooner has a half-baked theory, witty observation or nugget of advice popped into their head, is it tapped reflexively into their smartphone and beamed into the eyeballs of the whole procrastinating world.
But beware, because there are things you should avoid at all costs.
1. Posting a naked selfie
Promising congressman Anthony Weiner's first mistake was sending an explicit picture of himself (which we delicately described as "waist-down") in a tweet to a 21-year-old student. Unsurprisingly, the image went viral. He then made a second by spending several days denying it was him in the photo, before finally caving-in to admit having “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years”. Later he made his third mistake by doing it again. The man really needs a social media advisor, or a hobby. Of course, female musical artists should ignore this one, as it now seems to be a mandatory marketing strategy.
2. Threatening to blow up an airport
Paul Chambers was looking forward to a well-earned holiday in 2010 when heavy snowfall looked likely to ground his flight, so he took to Twitter to vent his frustration:
Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!
A week later, a manager at the airport with no detectable sense of humour stumbled across the tweet. Cue a criminal trial for sending a “public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”, two unsuccessful appeals, lots of noise from comedian Al Murray and Stephen Fry and a final, successful appeal for sanity which quashed the conviction. Yes, it has now been shown that it is legally OK to send such a tweet, but it does still seem like an awful lot of hassle and you may have to spend time with Al Murray.
3. Admit to running over a cyclist
Last year 22-year-old trainee accountant Emma Way was driving in Norfolk when she collided with a cyclist, then drove off without stopping. Speaking from bitter personal experience, drivers usually get off scot free after doing this, so it was slightly foolish of her to tweet: definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way – he doesn't even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists"
Within hours, all the cyclists of Twitter had pounced on her account and forced it into the national news. Last month she was found guilty of failing to stop after a collision and failing to report an accident. The lesson? If you've committed a crime, it's best not to tell everyone.
4. Piggyback on history-making, bloody uprisings to sell shoes
Back in 2011, as millions of protesters took to the streets of Cairo to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak's regime, fashion boss Kenneth Cole watched. At least 800 people were killed and around 100,000 were injured. Sensing the gravity of the moment, he was inspired to comment:
Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…
It did not go down well. Cole later apologised for his “attempt at humour regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression”.
5. Insult your boss
Criticising your boss on Twitter is never wise, particularly if they follow you. But even doing it anonymously is dangerous if you work in the White House; the NSA has read all your emails and text messages, so it's surely the work of moments to identify an embarrassing tweeter. National security official Jofi Joseph was exposed and fired after his anonymous tweets undermining the administration and Republicans alike finally went too far.
He described White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett as a "vacuous cipher", while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had "few policy goals and no wins" and John Noonan, a national security staffer on Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, was an "overweight paid Romney shill". Ahead of a council on foreign relations meeting he mused: “Is the Guiness World Record for largest density of tools in one room about to be broken?”
Funny, yes, but worth losing your job over?