You are What you Tweet

10th April, 2013 - 4 minutes read

This week has seen Britains first youth commissioner step down from her post after being thrown into the spotlight, over remarks she made 2 years before her post. Paris Brown has sparked media attention for her “homophobic and racist” remarks made on social networking site Twitter. Some of these remarks spoke about sex and drug taking but when the teenager was asked about these comments she said they were as a result of “widely exaggerating”.

In Hal’s recent post it speaks about the need for people to heighten their daily activity, in order to keep up with other people’s boasts about holidays etc. Many people don’t want to be considered as boring and run of the mill, so tend to exaggerate things online in order to make their life more exciting.

For teenager’s and fortysomethings alike, this is something that is a trademark of social media sites. However how much should we really rely on Twitter to tell us about a person and should we really be using social media platforms to give us a true indication of what someone is really like?

The police force have come under scrutiny and were asked why Brown’s social media accounts weren’t vetted as part of the recruitment process. The police force confirmed that they went through the normal procedures and don’t look through people’s twitter feeds. Yet recently it has been known that if a company uses Facebook to view a candidates online profile as part of the process, it could land them in hot water – no one can win!

A new proposal issued by the European Commission called “the right to be forgotten” may have helped Paris Brown’s situation. According to Viviane Reding spokesperson for the European Justice Commission, this proposal has been drawn up with young people in mind. “They are not always aware as they could be about the consequences of putting photos and other information on social network websites, or about the various privacy settings available. The proposal means that EU citizens would also be entitled to ask companies such as Twitter to delete the data from the firm’s servers.”

“However as information is so public, it is collectable by any other website or individual and therefore only applied to the source company” said Jim Killock head of the Open Rights group which campaigns for privacy and consumer right’s online.

When social media sites first came about it was largely teenagers and students who first welcomed them and they were what they said  – social. Recruiters didn’t spend hours vetting timelines and companies didn’t try and “engage” with you. Facebook and the Twittersphere became a place where free speech reigned and people vented openly.

Still today many people whether they’re 18 or 68 use these sites to air their views in the same way as a diary to let off steam. The danger here is the rapid spread of information online and the need to be careful what we say in such a public domain. It wouldn’t be so bad if people only had close friends and family on these sites and set privacy settings but many of us are guilty of having 300+ friends we barely know and as a result you don’t know who they know!

Essentially if you use social media, you have to think before you speak. If you wouldn’t say it to your granny, don’t say it at all!