Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Twitter, what we say on Twitter, and the penalties for not thinking before we post.

The case study was a baseball game.

I highlighted what I perceived to be exceptionally noxious tweets from St. Louis fans posted after the San Francisco Giants knocked the Cardinals out of the playoffs. I named names. This was not an illegal or even unethical act – the tweets were easily found, if you searched Cardinal-related hashtags.

A conversation on Twitter ensued. I was challenged on my opinions.I responded to a couple tweets about the article; unremarkable, because that’s what we do on Twitter – we talk to each other.

One particular tweeter asked why I hadn’t mentioned similar posts by Giants fans. I responded by saying there were similarly obscene comments made by San Francisco fans as well. I highlighted  comments by  some St. Louis fans because their reactions to their team losing a baseball game took on a dark, personal tone. It was not about baseball, it was about faggots in San Francisco.

In hindsight, I probably should have posted up a couple of  Giants haters, but that wouldn’t have made the Cardinals fans any less agitated.

Late yesterday, I got a direct message from a guy in St. Louis. I’ll call him “Rick”. It was personal and it wasn’t very kind. I responded – Call me. Here’s my number.

He called me.

Two strangers, one in Missouri, one in California, started talking. It was pretty awkward at first, but soon the conversation took on a different tone.

I mentioned that I have been to St. Louis, and I loved Busch stadium and the great Cardinal fans. I saw Mark McGwire hit a 500 foot home run there, and it was awesome. Rick told me that he has visited San Francisco, and gave me his very positive impressions of AT&T Park. I commented that I knew some people from Arnold, a suburb of St. Louis.  He told me he had family there. We talked about the Giants/ Cardinals series. I asked him how the media in St. Louis handled the games, and one particular incident involving Marco Scutaro of the Giants and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals. I told him that Bay Area media were pretty respectful of the Cardinals; after all, they are a great team, perennial contenders. Rick complimented the Giants on their never-say-die scrappy mentality.

10 minutes into the call, we were relaxed and friendly.

He ended the conversation saying ” Good luck against Detroit – those guys are tough.”

I said ” Thanks, man. I appreciate the call. Your guys will be in it again next year.”

What began as anonymous ripping on a social media network ended up as a personal telephone conversation, a friendly one at that.

It’s easy to throw bombs at strangers on Twitter. It’s quick and dirty. We can say whatever we want, feeling that there are no consequences.

But if we are placed in front of another human, our words are almost always different.

This guy, Rick, wasn’t a bad guy at all, it turned out. He threw out some pretty gnarly stuff as a digital avatar, but Rick the man seemed to be decent.

There was another guy who I didn’t speak with personally, this guy Joey. His responses yesterday to my stuff on Twitter became less heated as the day went on. He was a little taken aback that he had been called out, actually.  Last night I messaged him:

I’m writing a new article. Ping you when it’s live.

Hey Joey? I’m thinking you’re probably a pretty good guy too. Maybe I should have thought about it for a couple more seconds before I called you out. Your tweet was not homophobic and threatening. it was a little crude, but nobody got hurt.

I apologize. My bad.

We have more in common with each other than differences. Regardless of our race or gender, or whether we root for the Detroit Tigers or the Giants or Cardinals or Yankees, when the smack talk stops and the conversation begins, we find these common threads, the things that we share, the things we like about each other.

78% of hiring managers said in a recent survey they routinely check social media before they hire someone. They do this to find out who we are. They told the survey-takers that they often will look past a person who posts angry or obscene content.

I tell my students at school to be careful with their words. It can bite them in the ass down the road.

I’m going to remember that, too.

Hey Joey – if I ever run into you, I’ll buy you a beer. I bet we both agree the Cubs suck.