Who you are plays a big role in what you can, and cannot, get away with on social media. This past weekend, Judy Mozes, the wife of Israeli Interior Minister, tweeted a racist joke about President Obama. The tweet caused uproar across Twitter and across both countries. People objected to both the racism of the tweet and the potential damage it could do to US-Israeli relations. Mozes' tweet and the reaction to it highlight several potential social media pitfalls.
First, when posting on social media, especially on Twitter, you are always talking to more people than you intended. You may intend to direct your comment at a particular person or group, but your posts are always going to be seen by unintended audiences.
Second, what may seem appropriate to you may not always be appropriate to others. For example, when a politician in the Chesapeake Bay region tweets he is looking forward to getting crabs over the weekend, local constituents think yummy crustaceans, while folks in other parts of the country may think STD. So, a tweet about "Obama coffee" being "black and weak," while clearly offensive, may be seen as far more so by some people than others, as the cultural norms for communications often vary from country to country.
Third, who you are and who you represent isn't always your choice. If you are a high ranking official in government, at an NGO or at a company (or in this case, the spouse of one), what you say on your personal social media channels will reflect on your organization. The higher your position in your organization, the more this is true. You may say that "opinions expressed are your own and not your employer's", but in the end, it's the perceptions of your audience that make this determination.
Fourth, you may delete your offensive post, but it lives on. It lives on Twitter phone apps, it lives on Tweetdeck. It lives in cache and it lives in the cloud. It's archived at the Library of Congress, Topsy and/or (for US politicians up until May 15, 2015) on Politwoops. It lives in articles about your post. And it lives in the memory of anyone who saw the post. The Internet is like the world largest (virtual) elephant. It never forgets.
Fifth and finally, if you do make the mistake of sharing an inappropriate, offensive, racist joke, apologize as soon as you realize your mistake. Judy Mozes learned quickly that it's one thing to laugh at a tasteless joke told by a friend, but quite another thing to share that joke with the world via Twitter. To her credit, she recovered quickly and saved enough face to move on.
Fortunately, as the wife of a government official, she won't have to resign, and neither will her husband (though she did jokingly wonder in a tweet if her marriage will survive her faux pas). But for others making similar mistakes from within an official position, the consequences are very often terminal, no matter the speed of contrition.