TJ Kelly

Can Social Media Fires be Put Out?

Not long ago, I learned a valuable lesson: with social media, any situation can get out of hand easily. It’s not a new concept, but it really doesn’t sink in until you become a part of it.

The situation

I won’t get too specific, as it could reopen some healed wounds. But I will say this: I said a stupid thing on Twitter. It was personal. It was nasty. It was uncalled for. It was a mistake.

The recipient of my bone-headed tweet caught wind and promptly fired back. The trouble is: said recipient is in a powerful position and could do some real damage.

The predicament

My outcome: put out this fire asap. But how? If you know me, you know I’m happy to argue. I sometimes enjoy it. I’m fairly good at it. But in this case, it would have been a bad move. It would have fueled a fire that only needed putting out.

How do you put out a fire that’s burning on Twitter & other social media outlets?

The answer

Keeping in mind that there is no perfect answer, the first solution to explore is simply: apologize.

Fighting back only grows the problem. Ignoring it or covering your tracks can let it smolder. Calling for backup adds new complexity.

I apologized immediately. I realized what I said was stupid―and unwarranted―and that I should never have said it. I threw in some self-deprecation, just for good measure.

The conclusion

Social media fires might be the hardest kind to put out. People speak and act so quickly in this world that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Obviously, it’s best to avoid these fires if possible. But when they break out, act quickly and sincerely.

I made a mistake. I owned up to it. I apologized and held myself accountable. It wasn’t easy, but it was what needed to be done.


Have you ever ignited a social media fire, accidentally or otherwise? How did/would you handle it? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me.

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