Can serious work co-exist with silly tweets?

A former CIA officer has publicly criticized the agency’s Twitter feed for its often humorous tone. Some would argue that’s what Twitter is all about.


Over the past several years, Twitter has earned a reputation as the social media site for humor, whether it be hashtag jokes, non-sequitur observations, or snide comments about the trends of the day. For proof of that, look no further than the CIA’s Twitter feed, which mixes serious tweets about the agency’s history with jokes such as this one:

The Tupac tweet was one of several that celebrated the CIA’s so-called “twitterversary,” a tongue-in-cheek commemoration of the agency’s being on Twitter for one month. The CIA’s first tweet, by the way, was also a joke:

On Tuesday, national security analyst and former CIA officer Bob Baer said on CNN that the CIA’s Twitter account is out of line. “I’m sort of old school, and I think intelligence agencies should stay out of the news as much as they can,” he said. “This is all supposed to be secret, and you know, humor isn’t its strong suit.” Yet humor is the entire point of Twitter for lots of people. The CIA has more than 700,000 followers, and one could certainly argue it wouldn’t have reached that number without its humorous tone. Its first tweet got ample media attention, as have its “twitterversary” tweets. For organizations that do work that requires a certain degree of seriousness and secrecy, it seems to be something of a catch-22. Being on Twitter is all but a necessity now, and a seeming requirement of a Twitter account is the occasional joke. The CIA is an extreme case, but what about organizations that do medical research, charities that fight hunger, or even brands that occasionally have to wade into controversy? Would it be wrong for them to joke around on Twitter the way the CIA has been doing? Please have your say in the comments.

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