Monday, 8 April 2013

The cautionary tale of Paris Brown

Over the weekend, The Mail on Sunday reported on the tale of Paris Brown, the newly appointed youth police and crime commissioner with a tendency to tweet her mind. The piece focused on the nature of the Tweets from the 17-year-old's personal Twitter account; comments which were described by her boss, Ann Barnes, as rude, offensive, unpleasant and unacceptable. You can read the full report from the BBC here.

"A lot of young people use them and say the most horrible things. They don't even think about what they are saying and I think this is what's happened with Paris," reflected Barnes.

"Won't it be good if, from her own experience, she can try to get over to young people that [some things] they say on Twitter or Facebook are unacceptable?” she added.

The eminent Steve Kuncewicz wrote an interesting comment on the situation. While you should all pop across to his site to read his take on the whole affair, I’ve pulled out a paragraph below:

"What you say online has real consequences in the real world. More and more cases in the employment tribunal revolve around social media comments and, despite the data protection and human rights issues involved in online vetting, I’d bet that most employers take a look at candidates before employing them.”

Wise words for a Monday morning.

Occasionally, I lecture to university students, advising them on how best to use social media to job hunt. My favourite stats come from a survey done by in 2010 (I bet this figure has gone up).

  • 53 per cent of employers look at the social media profiles of applicants to a position.
  • 43 per cent of these employers chose not to hire a candidate based on content they found.

Smash cut to Monday afternoon. The newspaper print on yesterday’s Mail on Sunday wasn’t even dry.

Surprising no one, the passing of Margaret Thatcher was extensively covered on everyone’s favourite 140-character social network of choice. Thatcher was a divisive figure and the commentary on Twitter reflected as much. Some people liked her, some did not.

And that’s absolutely fine.

Opinions are good. Twitter is a messy senate for the masses and I love that I get to eavesdrop arguments which dart between politics and television shows in a heartbeat. Opinions make social media an interesting place. And I can choose to agree or disagree with you at my leisure. But this isn’t my point.

Never write on Twitter what you wouldn’t want to be quoted on by your mum, boss or the BBC.

Some of today's tweets about Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have looked out of place on the front cover of a national newspaper.

Social media isn’t new anymore and we’re not lawless pioneers in the wild west of the internet. What we say can be recorded, documented and played back to us. Time and time again, we have seen the repercussions of an ill-judged tweet; firings, legal action and convictions. Our words don’t just float away into cyberspace.

We need to be aware that, even on social media, our words have real ramifications.


  1. Well put Tom. I have been saying this to my group of 18 year old school kids I'm working with on careers advice. If you want to Tweet dodgy stuff, get a protected account & don't register your full name (like me). Otherwise it's as you said, don't tweet anything you wouldn't say in a job interview! An as for the drunken photos on Facebook....

  2. Really good post!

    This is an issue which really needs to be addressed at an secondary educational level in my opinion. This generation of young people are digital natives who are used to tweeting every single thought which comes into their head, often without thinking of the consequences - particularly if they say something which is offensive, or reflects their behavior in a bad light. What would be useful is if people taught 'good' social media etiquette in schools and showed young people the consequences of saying silly things on public platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.